JERUSALEM (Dec. 30)
Four Arabs were killed and as many as 250 reported wounded over the weekend in clashes with the Israel Defense Force in the Gaza Strip.
The violence was associated with preparations for the annual observance of Fatah Day this Tuesday.
The occasion will be the 26th anniversary of the emergence of Al Fatah as the principal fighting force of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The day usually sparks widespread disturbances in the administered territories. About 150 known Fatah activists were put under preventive arrest over the weekend, but that failed to keep the peace.
As a result, most of the 750,000 Palestinian inhabitants of the Gaza Strip were under curfew by Sunday night. Curfews also were clamped on towns and refugee camps in the West Bank.
Thirteen Arabs were wounded Sunday in Gaza and El-Mughazi refugee camp, two of the few locations not under curfew.
But the worst casualties occurred Saturday in Rafah and Khan Yunis, at the southern end of the territory.
According to the IDF, the trouble broke out in Rafah on Saturday afternoon, when soldiers challenged two masked youths who refused to halt. They were shot first in the legs and then fatally shot.
HAIFA MAN STABBED TO DEATH
News of the deaths brought hundreds of Palestinians swarming into the marketplace of the nearby Shabura refugee camp, where they confronted soldiers with hails of rocks. Two soldiers were injured.
The soldiers opened fire, killing two more Palestinians and wounding many others. A fifth fatality occurred when an Arab man died of a heart attack after inhaling tear gas.
After relative quiet due to widespread curfews Saturday night. violence erupted anew Sunday, when at least 14 more Arabs were wounded.
Gen. Shmuel Zucker, the IDF commander in the Gaza Strip, said the deaths were unavoidable. He confirmed that four Arabs were shot to death by soldiers over the weekend but disputed the number of wounded, which he put at no more than 90.
An IDF officer commented later, “It was a real face-to-face battle. We did not want to shoot, but we had no choice. We had to, so that soldiers wouldn’t be hurt.”
Meanwhile, the body of an Israeli man was found stabbed to death in Haifa. Police identified him as Yosef Malchin, 60, and said he may have been a victim of Palestinian nationalists. A police spokeswoman said a note signed by Fatah was found near the body.