JERUSALEM (Feb. 10)
Fear and mistrust were evident Sunday on both sides of the Green Line as Arab workers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip were allowed to return to jobs in Israel for the first time since the territories were sealed off at the start of the Persian Gulf war Jan. 16.
After 26 days of confinement, mostly under curfew, only a relative handful reported for work.
Palestinians, knowing the fury aroused in Israel by their rejoicing over Saddam Hussein’s missile attacks on Tel Aviv, were apprehensive about showing their faces in Jewish population centers.
The authorities limited work permits to 6,000, but no more than 1,500 showed up.
Israelis, for their part, feared a renewal of terrorist activities in the highly charged war atmosphere. Israel proper was open to industrial, construction and agricultural workers. But the Tel Aviv and Haifa areas, which provide most of the jobs, were excluded.
Permission to work in other regions was given on condition that the employers pick up their workers and return them home before dark.
Contractors in the Beersheba region feared entering the Gaza Strip and thus did not pick up Palestinian construction workers.
Tension was heightened when residents of Jewish settlements bordering the West Bank were alerted to the possibility that terrorists might infiltrate with the workers.
Curfews were reimposed throughout the territories as soon as the workers returned for the night.
The military authorities were concerned that restored freedom of movement would reactivate the intifada, which has been dormant as long as the territories have been under strict curfew.
No sooner was the curfew lifted Sunday morning at the El-Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip than fierce clashes erupted between Palestinian youths and Israel Defense Force soldiers. The curfew was swiftly reimposed.
The Shin Bet internal security service and the IDF announced, meanwhile, that some 350 activists of Hamas, the extremist Moslem fundamentalist movement in the Gaza Strip, have been arrested and their weapons seized.
The security forces also reportedly captured regional commanders alleged to be responsible for attacks on Jews and on Arabs suspected of collaborating with Israel.
They said they had in custody Ashraf Ba’alougi, suspected of murdering three Israeli factory workers in Jaffa two months ago. He was arrested hiding out in Ramallah. The killer allegedly acted on instructions issued by Hamas.