JERUSALEM (Jun. 22)
Eight deliberately set fires were reported in various parts of Israel and the West Bank Wednesday. Most of them were promptly extinguished and the damage was relatively slight.
In fact, the wave of arson against Israeli property called for by the underground command of the Palestinian uprising was less serious than expected.
In recent weeks, there has been an average of 18 forest and crop fires a day, which Israelis acknowledge is the latest weapon of the Palestinian uprising.
But Israeli Arabs and Palestinians from the administered territories did not respond in any great numbers to the exhortations in leaflet No. 19, distributed this week. It called for the large-scale burning of Israeli property on Wednesday, especially such agricultural assets as forests and fields.
The leaflet gave the Israeli authorities plenty of advance warning, and elaborate precautions and preventive measures were taken. Fire brigades were alerted. Aircraft were used to spot fires as soon as they started, enabling fire-fighters to act swiftly.
The massive presence of security forces along the “Green Line,” the boundary between Israel proper and the administered territories, apparently deterred would-be arsonists.
The cool, damp weather of recent days also helped keep the fires from spreading rapidly.
18 ACRES DESTROYED
The most serious blaze occurred at about noon local time. About 12 acres of forests were destroyed near the Israeli Arab village of Taiba, east of Kfar Sava.
Another six acres were scorched Wednesday morning, near the Arab village of Umm el-Fahm, in central Israel, east of Hadera.
Fires also were reported near Ashkelon, at Kafr Kasim in the Lachish region, the Etzion bloc of settlements south of Jerusalem and in the Gilboa mountains.
If Palestinians generally ignored the call to arson, they did largely observe a general strike called Wednesday by the underground command. Shops were closed, public transportation was halted and most students and workers stayed home.
But except for Ramallah, Arab municipalities in the West Bank stayed open.
There were a few incidents. Two Arabs were wounded when Israel Defense Force soldiers opened fire in Nablus Wednesday afternoon, after they were attacked with rocks and bottles.
An Arab shepherd attempted to stab a civilian employee at the military firing range south of Hebron.
The intended victim was employed by the Green Patrol Rangers. He was sent with soldiers to eject the shepherds from the firing zone when he was knifed. His assailant was caught later in the Arab village of Inna, west of Hebron.
An Israeli Arab helped police capture a terrorist who entered Israel from the West Bank, apparently with intent to do harm. He was spotted Tuesday night by Israeli Arabs from Mukeibile village, near Mount Gilboa. They alerted security forces who, with the villagers’ help, caught the suspect hiding in a field.
The head of the Gilboa Regional Council praised the villagers for their courage and good citizenship.