JERUSALEM (Nov. 14)
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told a Knesset panel Tuesday that the Israel Defense Force has orders to “act aggressively” against any illegal incidents that may occur on the first anniversary of the proclamation of an “independent Palestinian state” Nov. 15.
It was not clear whether that would apply to non-violent acts of defiance. Rabin said no express instructions to open fire were issued.
Rabin made his remarks before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee. He said that leaders of the intifada had issued instructions to activists to use “hot weapons” on the anniversary, and also called for festive marching and dancing in the streets, in leaflets distributed in the West Bank Saturday.
An open instruction to use firearms would be a tacit admission that the present methods of the intifada had failed, Rabin said.
Military observers Tuesday saw possible ties between those orders and the ambush Monday in the Gaza Strip of an IDF jeep, in which one soldier was killed and another seriously injured.
Despite conjectures that the attack was tied to the PLO anniversary, it was noted that credit for the attack was made by Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist group that is vying with the PLO for control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Rabin vowed that Israel would capture and punish the killers. He also said that any Arabs who had helped in the ambush would suffer, too.
The defense minister said that activists had opened fire in the past in Nablus and Gaza, but yesterday’s attack was the first firearm ambush on a main road.
Ma’ariv noted Tuesday that supporters of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the Gaza Strip have succeeded until now in enforcing PLO leader Yasir Arafat’s order not to use firearms in the territories.
CONTRASTS WITH WEST BANK
This contrasts with the West Bank, where soldier Moshe Katz was shot and killed one year ago in Bethlehem. Also, reserve officer Yitzhak Revah was killed this year in a clash with an armed squad in the area of Mount Hebron.
Al Hamishmar quoted an IDF spokesman saying that since the beginning of the intifada, 520 Arabs, 11 Israeli civilians and seven IDF soldiers have been killed in the territories.
During this period in the West Bank, 5,697 Arabs, 712 Israeli civilians and 942 soldiers were injured; 161 homes were demolished and 70 sealed; and 37 residents were expelled.
In the Gaza Strip, 627 soldiers, 66 Israeli civilians and 2,896 Arabs were wounded; 83 homes demolished and 46 sealed; and 21 residents expelled.
After addressing the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, Rabin told reporters that the IDF and other security elements would be deployed in force in the territories, to prevent any disturbances that might occur in connection with Wednesday’s anniversary.
He said he was purposely letting the residents know of the military buildup so that they could not complain they were caught unaware.
So far, residents of the territories have ignored warnings by the Israeli authorities.
Nationalistic music blares from loudspeakers in West Bank towns and drivers have been leaning on their horns. Children hand out flowers and balloons.
The walls of houses are decorated with portraits of Arafat and his slain deputy, Abu Jihad, believed to have been the victim of an Israeli assassination squad when he was gunned down at his home in Tunis in April 1988.
Moreover, about 100 Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza City on Tuesday, dancing and singing nationalist songs, despite a curfew which the IDF clamped on the Gaza Strip following the killing of (Res.) Col. Yisrael Trachtenboim.
Violence also continued. According to Arab sources, IDF troops shot and wounded seven Palestinians Monday night and Tuesday.
(JTA correspondent Hugh Orgel in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.)