JERUSALEM (Dec. 18)
Eight Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the weekend. Scores were reported wounded.
Several Jewish settlers were wounded in rock-throwing incidents over the weekend, including a baby girl, who was hospitalized in serious condition.
The underground unified command of the Palestinian uprising declared a three-day general strike in the terrtories to protest the killings. Most of the dead are youths in their early 20s.
Despite the strike and violence, some 40,000 Arab school children in the West Bank returned to classes Sunday.
Schools in Nablus, however, remained closed, as the Israel Defense Force clamped another curfew on the city, whose population of over 100,000 makes it the largest Arab town in the West Bank.
Curfews also were imposed on the West Bank town of Kalkilya, the Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah and most refugee camps in the Gaza Strip.
The escalation of violence and the death toll, the highest in several weeks, coincided with the first talks between the United States and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
They occurred Friday in the ancient city of Carthage, south of Tunis, and were conducted between the U.S. ambassador to Tunisia, Robert Pelletreau Jr., and four PLO representatives.
According to foreign media reports, the PLO delegation was headed by Yasir Abed Rabbo, a member of the organization’s executive committee.
PLO SAVS UNREST IS NOT TERRORISM
According to Israeli military sources, the violence in the territories was touched off by Arab extremists opposed to PLO leader Yasir Arafat’s diplomatic initiative.
But Arab sources said it was the Israelis who responded to Arafat’s peace offer by taking harsher measures to suppress the intifada, the Palestinian uprising, which entered its second year nine days ago.
Pelletreau was designated by Secretary of State George Shultz to be the U.S. contact man with the PLO. Shultz authorized the talks last Wednesday in a sudden reversal of a 13-year ban on such contacts.
He did this after Arafat, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly in Geneva last Tuesday and at a news conference there Wednesday, ostensibly met U.S. conditions for dialogue.
They were unambiguous recognition of Israel, unqualified renunciation of terrorism and acceptance of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for the return of formerly Arab territory and security for Israel and its neighbors.
The feeling here is that the supporters of Arafat, no less than the rejectionists, want to make clear that the intifada is continuing, regardless of any new political momentum.
According to a report by Moshe Arad, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, the U.S. government has informed Israel that the PLO does not regard attacks on military targets or the uprising in the territories to be terrorist acts.
Arafat’s position on terrorism was explained to Arad by Richard Murphy, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs. The United States apparently made no objections to the PLO interpretation.
Rioting began in Nablus early Friday, apparently unrelated to what was transpiring in Tunis or in Washington.
It was touched off by the funeral of a 15-year-old Arab youngster, who died of wounds suffered three weeks ago in a skirmish with the IDF.
The funeral became a mass demonstration. Israeli troops opened fire, killing Yassin Shah-shour and Faiz Shawki, both 20. Many more in the crowd were wounded.
Later clashes took the lives of Iyad Abu-Hillal, 18, and Nidal Abdul Hak. Another 20-year-old, Mohammad al-Kawni, died of his wounds Saturday.
USE OF BULLETS INCREASING
Two other Palestinians, Mohammad Nasser Hawash, 20, and Jihad Mustafa Umran, 22, were pronounced “brain dead” at Mokassed Hospital in Jerusalem. Both sustained bullet wounds in their heads.
Three more Palestinians died Sunday.
The army is looking into the deaths of Suhair Ziyad, 23, and Mohammed Farahat from the Shabura neighborhood of Rafah, a town on the southern border of the Gaza Strip.
Arab sources said they were killed and three others were wounded in a clash with the IDF.
Another youth was fatally shot by soldiers Sunday in Deir al-Ghusun village, near Tulkarm in the West Bank.
The IDF said soldiers opened fire when the youth was about to throw a heavy brick on a soldier from a rooftop.
Dr. Hani Abdin, a spokesman for Mokassed, which is an Arab hospital, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the number of patients admitted with bullet wounds in the head has increased sharply in the past week.
He said until recently, most injuries were caused by rubber or plastic bullets fired at the lower parts of the body. But in the last week, the use of live bullets has increased, and many have been aimed at the head.
According to Abdin, this marks a return to the pattern of the early days of the uprising in December 1987.
10-MONTH-OLD SERIOUSLY WOUNDED
Meanwhile, Jewish settlers are furious over a rock attack that seriously injured Yona Assaf , 10-month-old daughter of residents of Dolev, a settlement north of Jerusalem.
She was struck in the head Friday afternoon by a rock thrown into her parents’ car as they drove through the Arab town of Beituniya.
The child was rushed to the intensive care unit of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where her condition was pronounced serious.
Settlers from Dolev entered Beituniya Saturday, staging a sit-down strike. they demanded that the defense minister or the chief of staff come to them with proposals to improve the security situation in the territories immediately.
Also wounded over the weekend were a couple from Ginot Shomron. Their car crashed Saturday night near Kalkilya, after coming under a hail of stones.
The driver, Alex Burger, was reported to be still unconscious Sunday, after undergoing an operation for a fractured skull.
His wife, Rina, suffered broken ribs, but was reported to be in fairly good condition. Their two children were released from the hospital.
A 4-year-old Swiss tourist was injured Saturday night by a rock thrown near Oranit, a settlement near Kfar Sava. The boy underwent surgery for a broken jew.
In response to the latest incidents, Gen. Amram Mitzna, IDF commander for the central region, said the army would institute more severe punishment against rock-throwers.