Anxiety over Jordanian Moves Sparks Rioting, Confusion in the West Bank

One Palestinian was killed and four injured in riots in Nablus and the West Bank village of Dura, as anxiety among Palestinians grew over Jordan’s stated intention to sever relations with the West Bank.

Although a general strike was called Tuesday to protest recent arrests and deportations of key figures in the 8-month-old uprising, conflicting reports from Amman increased the scope of the rioting.

Tensions have been high since Jordan’s King Hussein indicated, in a televised speech Sunday night, his intention to accept the secession of the West Bank from Jordan and to give the Palestine Liberation Organization full responsibility for administering an independent Palestinian state.

In a symbolic move, Jordan Television stopped screening weather forecasts from the territories, and took off the air a program of interviews with West Bank personalities.

Anxiety was shared not only by residents of the territories, but by the leadership of the PLO, which plans to convene the Palestinian National Council within the next few weeks to discuss the new situation.

Palestinian notables reportedly wanted to go to Amman and beg the Jordanian monarch not to take any drastic measures against the population. According to the reports, however, the Palestinians were warned that the time was not ripe for such an overture to the king.

FEAR OF SALARY LOSSES

The most immediate concern in the territories is Hussein’s decision to cut economic aid and a five-year, $1.3 billion economic redevelopment plan for the region.

A cut in Jordanian aid could mean a loss of monthly salaries for thousands of civil servants. Public institutions, particularly municipalities, would be deprived of a major source of income, and residents may have to give up their Jordanian passports.

Under present political realities, in which the PLO and its emissaries are given no legitimacy by the Israelis, the cuts would mean greater dependence on the Israeli administration.

Jordanian Information Minister Hani el-Hassawneh tried to calm fears in the territories Tuesday by denying that Jordan wanted to pull away from the territories. Hassawneh described the Jordanian measures rather as a “political step which was designed to serve the interests of the Palestinians.”

In an interview in the Kuwaiti newspaper El-Kabas, Hassawneh stressed that his government is determined to continue economic support to the territories. He said Jordan from now on would transfer funds for “victims of the intifada” through the PLO, instead of directly to bereaved families.

Hassawneh also promised that wage earners who had worked for the Jordanian government before the Six-Day War would continue to receive salaries, and the justice system would continue to function according to Jordanian law. Bridges over the Jordan River would remain open, he said.

A senior source in Amman said Jordan would not revoke Jordanian passports, unless asked to do so by the Palestinians.

But despite the assurances, Palestinians expressed fears that the king would take further measures to implement the severing of relations.

RIOTING IN NABLUS, HEBRON

Tuesday was the second consecutive day of a general strike, called to protest the deportation of eight Palestinian activists Monday and the detention Sunday of Faisal al-Husseini, a key Palestinian activist who directed the Institute for Arab Studies in East Jerusalem.

Rioting began in Nablus, where an 18-year-old boy was shot dead when he allegedly tried to hurl a brick at Israeli soldiers from a rooftop near the Nablus casbah.

His death touched off further rioting, which was dispersed by soldiers, who wounded two other youths.

In the village of Dura, south of Hebron, two Arab youths were wounded by Israeli fire when they tried to prevent Arab workers from leaving for work in Israel.

NEXT STORY