JERUSALEM (Mar. 30)
Land Day was observed peacefully Wednesday in Arab sections of Israel proper. Protest demonstrations were held in the larger Arab towns and villages, but by late afternoon, no incidents had been reported requiring police intervention.
A general strike was observed fully in all-Arab towns, such as Nazareth. But Arab businesses remained open in cities of mixed Arab-Jewish population, notably Jaffa, Haifa, Lod and Ramla.
Violence erupted in the West Bank, however. By early evening. Israel Radio had reported a number of Palestinian deaths and large numbers wounded in clashes with the Israel Defense Force.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip were declared closed military zones earlier this week and have been sealed off since midnight Monday, with tight restrictions on press coverage.
Israel Radio reported at least two Arabs killed and “many injured” in West Bank rioting. In Tulkarm, 12 were injured in riots during the afternoon. Arab hospitals reported two more persons killed in Nablus and Hebron.
Other, unconfirmed reports spoke of 40 persons injured. Hospitals in East Jerusalem and the West Bank said they were receiving many people for treatment of wounds.
The IDF confirmed one incident Wednesday morning. It said soldiers attacked by Palestinians in a village near Ramallah fatally shot a woman and wounded three others.
The Gaza Strip, under total curfew, was reported quiet.
Land Day marks the 12th anniversary of Palestinian protests against the expropriation of Arab-owned lands in Galilee by the IDF. Six Palestinians were killed on the original Land Day, March 30, 1976.
This year, Israeli authorities took unprece dented security measures because of the continued unrest in the administered territories, which they feared might spill over into Israel proper.
This apparently did not occur. Israeli officials credited the local Arab leadership and their appointed monitors with preserving order. By tacit agreement, Israeli police kept out of Arab population centers during Land Day observances.
But the police acted to prevent Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the racist Kach party, from entering Nazareth. They also barred a planned demonstration there by young Herut activists, who proposed unfurling an Israeli flag in Nazareth and singing patriotic songs. The local police chief suggested they go to Upper Nazareth, a neighboring Jewish town.
Israelis were relieved by the calm that prevailed in Arab sections of the country, because the day had dawned ominously. Three gasoline bomb attacks were reported in Israel in the hours leading up to Land Day.
The first occurred Tuesday afternoon, when a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a busload of children at Kfar Tavor. Late Tuesday night, two more gasoline bombs were hurled at a bus near Kiryat Tivon and another was thrown at a car early Wednesday near Kibbutz Sha’ar Ha’amakim.
None hit their targets. The Sha’ar Ha’amakim incident resulted in speedy arrests in a neighboring Arab village.