RAMALLAH, West Bank (Dec. 27)
The administered territories are quieter than they have been in a very long time, military sources told reporters here Sunday, as some 270,000 Arab students in the West Bank returned to their classes without incident.
The 1,200 Arab schools in the territory had been closed for the past five days, on orders of the Israeli authorities, after nearly three weeks of rioting, much of it by school-aged youngsters.
Commercial life also returned to normal in downtown Ramallah. Shops reopened and fewer troops were seen on the streets than at any time in recent days.
Nevertheless, Israeli security forces will remain in strength and in a high state of alert in the territories, at least through Jan. 1. That is the anniversary of the founding of Al Fatah, the mainstream terrorist group of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The occasion has triggered disturbances in the past.
But military sources cited the peaceful Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem and other Christian sites as evidence that calm has been restored and “we are in full control of the situation.”
The calm is not without tension. A curfew was imposed on the Askar refugee camp after youngsters set fire to the local police station during a funeral procession. The Palestinian population anticipates more punitive measures.
More than 1,000 detainees are being held in West Bank prisons. Many have been transferred to prisons in Israel proper. Several hundred Palestinians were detained in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli military courts are preparing to try hundreds in both territories for various degrees of violent offenses, and many of the accused will face expulsion. The authorities admit they are concerned that mass deportations could touch off a new wave of disturbances.
An Arab student who talked to reporters in Ramallah’s main square Sunday summed up local feelings. “Of course the situation is more quiet,” he said. “The army is everywhere and there are massive arrests.”