Reaction in Territories Muted As Security Forces Clamp Down

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, clamped under an unprecedented military force, displayed little reaction to the proclamation of an independent Palestinian state in Algiers Tuesday.

Israeli Arabs, on a one-day general strike over a local grievance, showed more enthusiasm.

There were minor disturbances in the Arab neighborhoods of Haifa, but security measures taken in the Arab-populated areas of Israel proper proved largely unnecessary.

Palestinians were in no position to express their feelings — there were no celebrations, no demonstrations, no elation. Their day of independence dawned on streets empty of all but heavily armed Israeli soldiers.

The entire Gaza Strip and many towns and refugee camps in the West Bank have been under tight curfew since the weekend.

Military sources explained that no chances could be taken. Isolated incidents could easily have developed into massive disturbances, the sources said.

According to the Israel Defense Force, this justified preventive measures, including curfews, widespread preventive arrests, sealing off the territories from Israel proper, banning freedom of movement within the territories, cutting telephone lines and removing loudspeakers from the minarets of mosques.

No major disturbances were reported, according to the IDF. Journalists were allowed into the territories only under escort of IDF officers who served as spokesmen.

Gen. Dan Shomron, Israeli chief of staff, warned that after residents of the territories sober up from their natural tendency to rejoice, they will realize that “after a year in which they have been paying the full price, all they can get from the PNC overseas is appeals to the heart, festive declarations and nothing beyond it.”

Israel’s 750,000 Arab citizens went on strike Tuesday to protest the demolition of 15 houses in the Arab town of Taiba, near Kfar Sava, which were razed on orders of the Interior Ministry because they were built without licenses.

Tarek Abdul-Hai, deputy chairman of the National Committee of Arab Mayors and a member of the Hadash Communist party, urged Israelis to immediately negotiate a peace settlement with “President Arafat.”

Meanwhile, in the Wadi Nisnas quarter of Haifa, black, red and green Palestinian flags were chalked on some walls. A few tires were burned in the neighborhood and a stone roadblock was set up by local youths.

In Jerusalem, Hebrew University students who demonstrated in solidarity with the PNC got a month’s suspension for failing to secure a permit.

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