Menu JTA Search

Arabs Brace for Severe Punishment in Aftermath of Soldier’s Murder

Residents of El-Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip braced Monday for the “very heavy” punishment Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir promised for the brutal murder there last week of an Israeli reservist, who was stoned unconscious and burned to death.

But late in the day, Israel’s High Court of Justice issued an injunction temporarily barring the security forces from taking one of the widely anticipated measures: the demolition of Arab homes in the refugee camp.

Other contemplated moves were said to include the deportation of residents linked to the savage attack, which occurred on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

The High Court, acting on a petition from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, issued its restraining order after the army reportedly ordered the occupants of some 10 houses and 10 shops in the refugee camp to remove their belongings and vacate the premises.

The army also had begun measuring the homes for demolition. And bulldozers were said to be already at work destroying the gasoline station where the fuel was taken to set fire to the car of reserve Sgt. Amnon Pomerantz, the victim of the mob violence.

The camp has been under curfew since last Thursday. Fifteen suspects were reported to be in custody, three of them said to be directly responsible for the murder.

Israel Radio reported that some 20 Palestinians would be expelled for the deed. But there was no official confirmation.

Possible punitive measures were discussed Monday night at a special session in the offices of Defense Minister Moshe Arens. No final decisions were reported.

DEBATE OVER PUNITIVE ACTION

There is a vigorous debate in the government and influential circles over the scope of the punitive measures. Hard-line Cabinet ministers and Knesset members are demanding collective punishment of the El-Bureij residents.

But that would be contrary to Arens’ so-called “wise hand” policy. The defense minister advocates strong action against specific security violators, but eschews broad punitive measures that could alienate the entire population.

Arens has sought to avoid unnecessary friction between the Israel Defense Force and Palestinians in the territories. His policy seemed to have worked until the latest outburst of violence.

A statement issued Monday by the IDF spokesman, stressed that any punitive action would be “done within the framework of the law” and “directed toward those responsible,” rather than applied to the Gaza Strip as a whole.

NEXT STORY