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Israeli Arab Militants Arrested, As Debate on Deportations Continues

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Security authorities cracked down on Israeli Arab militants and continued to round up Palestinian activists in the administered territories as the Inner Cabinet met Wednesday to consider the deportation of troublemakers.

Government sources, meanwhile, denied reports that the Defense and Foreign ministries are split over the issue of deportations. They said Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin are working in close coordination on that and other matters.

But the Foreign Ministry is known to be concerned about foreign criticism of the possible deportations, while Rabin is on record in favor of the speedy expulsion of alleged agitators.

Rabin issued administrative arrest orders Wednesday against two Israeli Arabs, Raslan Mahajneh and Raja Agbriya, for their alleged role in violent demonstrations at Umm el-Fahm village during the Arab general strike in Israel on Dec. 21.

Administrative arrest allows the authorities to hold suspects in jail for up to six months without filing formal charges, and can be extended for longer periods.

40 ARRESTED

Meanwhile, 40 more activists were arrested Tuesday in the administered territories and may face deportation. Some of them are former security prisoners who were among more than 1,000 Palestinian and Lebanese offenders released from jail in 1985 in exchange for three Israeli soldiers held captive by Ahmed Jabril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

The latest arrests have raised apprehension in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Relatives and friends of the detainees have not been informed why they were arrested and fear they will be deported. Israeli authorities have not confirmed or denied that this is intended.

Haaretz quoted Palestinian sources Wednesday as saying the detainees are “prominent figures in the Palestinian nationalist camp in the administered territories.” Arab radio stations reported that Israel intends to expel hundreds of Palestinians from the territories.

Israeli security sources said if deportations are ordered, they will not be carried out “like thieves in the night.” All legal procedures and regulations required by law will be strictly observed, the sources said.

The Inner Cabinet, the government’s top policy-making body, consisting of five Labor and five Likud ministers, is also reviewing the situation in Israel’s Arab community — those living within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. The general strike on Dec. 21 in solidarity with the Palestinians in the territories raised serious concern that the country’s 750,000 Arab citizens are becoming radicalized.

Attention has been focused on the Sons of the Village movement, an extremist group of Israeli Arabs that refuses to recognize Israel. The group is believed to have been the prime mover behind the Umm el-Fahm demonstrations, which closed the main Afula-Hadera highway for two hours and ended in a violent clash with police.

Several Sons of the Village members demonstrated outside the Haifa district court Wednesday morning to protest the administrative arrests of Mahajneh and Agbriya, who are alleged to be leaders of the movement. The court building was sprayed some time Tuesday night with graffiti demanding the release of Mahajneh and Agbriya and an end to the “Israeli occupation.”

Ronni Milo, a Likud deputy minister without portfolio, blamed the National Committee of Arab Mayors for the Dec. 21 violence and demanded that the government have nothing more to do with it. But Peres warned that cutting ties with the mayors would “leave the Arab sector to the extremists.”

(Tel Aviv correspondent Gil Sedan contributed to this report.)

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