EL-BIREH, West Bank (Jun. 7)
The Israeli-appointed Arab mayor of El-Bireh, Hassan a-Tawil, was stabbed and critically wounded outside the town hall here Tuesday.
Tawil, 75, was reported in “critical but stable” condition at the government hospital in Ramallah, following surgery. The army imposed a curfew on El-Bireh and declared it a closed military area.
The mayor was assaulted shortly after 11 a.m. local time upon leaving his office. For reasons unknown he was not accompanied by his bodyguard. As he approached his car a few steps from the municipality building, he was stabbed with what hospital officials described as “a very long knife, which pierced his lung and heart.” The assailant escaped.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres expressed regret over the assassination attempt. He called it “a very serious matter” and warned that “those using violence and terror will pay for it more than the victims.” He said the incident would not change Israel’s policy of appointing Arab mayors.
Tawil was appointed mayor of El-Bireh by the Israeli civil administration in the West Bank and took office about 18 months ago. Since then, he has received death threats, as have all Israel-appointed mayors in the territory, and ignored them.
Police Minister Haim Barlev, who visited the scene of the attack, told reporters it would undoubtedly affect attempts to restore order in the territory. But he hoped the fallout would be marginal and the assailant swiftly apprehended.
Civil administration sources said Tuesday that the attack on Tawil was “very grave,” but there was “no panic.”
The sources would not say if they feared the attack might hasten the resignation of other Israeli-appointed Arab officials.
A SURGE OF RESIGNATIONS
There has been a surge of resignations since the Palestinian uprising began six months ago, attributed to threats of reprisal for collaborating with the Israelis.
The Israeli-appointed mayor of Nablus, Zafer al-Masri, was shot to death outside the Nablus City Hall in the winter of 1986, just a month after he took office.
All the present mayors in the administered territories have been appointed by Israel, except for the mayors of Bethlehem and Tulkarm.
Until two years ago, most Arab municipalities were run by Israel Defense Force officers, who replaced Arab mayors elected in 1976, the last time free elections were permitted in the territories.
The elected mayors were removed by the Israelis because they were, with few exceptions, staunch nationalists who supported the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Tawil had told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on his appointment that he was not worried he might become a target of political assassination. He said he was there to “serve the people.”