TEL AVIV (Dec. 9)
A million Palestinians were confined to their homes Sunday, under a curfew imposed over the West Bank and Gaza Strip to guard against violence on the third anniversary of the start of the intifada.
But neither curfew nor Israel Defense Force reinforcements could eliminate violence entirely.
One Palestinian was killed and an Israeli border policeman was wounded slightly in a disturbance in the Gaza Strip.
The dead man, Mohammad el-Madani of Bani Suheila village, was promptly hailed by local residents as the first intifada martyr of the fourth year of the Palestinian uprising.
Since the uprising began on Dec. 9, 1987, 712 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces, according to an official count, and 23 Israelis have died from violence related to the intifada.
In addition, Palestinian activists murdered 191 fellow Arabs accused of collaborating with Israelis.
In fact, while the number of Palestinians killed by the IDF has declined from year to year, internecine killings have climbed. They numbered 21 in the first year of the uprising, 134 in the second and 136 in the third.
Arab fatalities resulting from clashes with Israeli forces were down to 124 in the third year, compared to 285 and 303 in the first and second years respectively. Most of the fatalities were inflicted by live ammunition, plastic or rubber bullets fired at stone-throwing rioters.
NATURE OF INTIFADA HAS CHANGED
But the nature of the intifada has changed in recent months, in a way for the worse.
While rioting and stonings have subsided, stabbing attacks on individual Jews have increased in recent weeks and have spread from the territories and East Jerusalem into areas of Israel proper where such attacks were hitherto unknown.
Many officials and politicians fear, moreover, that intifada activists are about to resort to firearms.
Leaflet No. 65, circulated last week by the so-called Unified Command of the intifada, exhorted Palestinians to resort to all available means to achieve their goals.
That was taken to mean firearms, which were eschewed until recently for fear of Israeli retaliation in kind.
Defense Minister Moshe Arens said last week that he was convinced the Palestinians know “bullets would be met by bullets” and will not solve the problems of the territories.
But Palestinian nationalist leader Faisal Husseini said he was not sure the intifada leadership will be able to contain the young street fighters much longer.
He told Ma’ariv in an interview Friday, “No one wants the killing and the knives. What you see today is the action of individuals. We still control the people. But what is frightening is that in about two years you will have to talk to men who know only the language of the jungle,” Husseini said.
When the intifada erupted three years ago, Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor Party was minister of defense. He estimated it would take a few months to quell the uprising. Now Rabin, in the opposition ranks, says the only thing that will end it is a political solution.
Three years ago, most Likud leaders dismissed the demonstrations as a passing phenomenon which could be ended quickly if the Israel Defense Force was allowed to get tough. Now Likud realizes that while the IDF has learned to deal with the unrest, it can not end the uprising.