JERUSALEM (Mar. 21)
The resurgence of random violence by Palestinians against individual Israelis, including brutal murder, has the security authorities seriously concerned.
A tougher crackdown on Palestinians from the administered territories appears likely after one more Israeli was stabbed to death Thursday and others were attacked in separate incidents.
At the same time, an Israeli human rights group charging “routine ill-treatment and torture” of Palestinian detainees has demanded an investigation.
Thursday’s events, however, underlined the gravity of the situation facing Israeli citizens close to home.
Mordechai (Motke) Reuchman, a 70-year-old furniture dealer in Hadera, was stabbed to death in the storage room of his shop by an unidentified assailant who escaped with an accomplice.
Karen Beinhammer, 11, suffered a fractured skull when a rock was thrown at her parents’ car north of Jerusalem.
In Hod Hasharon, near Hadera, two Israeli soldiers were stabbed by an Arab laborer Thursday morning.
Neither was seriously hurt. Their attacker was shot in the leg and beaten by passersby. He required hospitalization.
One soldier was released from the hospital after treatment. The other was expected to be discharged Friday.
The Hadera murder was clearly the most brutal crime and enraged residents of the town, where the victim was a lifelong resident and a prominent elder of the community. But his funeral Thursday was without incident.
4 OTHER FATAL STABBINGS THIS MONTH
Reuchman was the fifth Israeli civilian knifed to death since a Gaza Arab fatally stabbed four Israeli women in rapid succession at a Jerusalem bus stop in broad daylight on March 10.
On the very next day, an Arab woman stabbed and wounded a Jewish settler in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
In Reuchman’s case, according to witnesses, the victim was sitting in his store with his wife when an Arab entered and asked to see furniture. The dealer invited the supposed customer into the storage room, where the Arab stated him twice in the heart. Reuchman was discoverd 10 minuets later lying in a pool of blood.
Ironically, he was murdered only 200 years from the place where his father, Zvi Reuch###, had been murdered 50 years ago.
The wave of killings has been attributed to Palestinian anger and frustration over the swift defeat of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces by the U.S.-led coalition in the Persian Gulf war.
Palestinians were almost alone in the Arab world in their support of Hussein, who they believed was interested in advancing their cause.
The killings are also attributed to pent-up rage after living for seven weeks during the Gulf war under tight curfews imposed by the Israeli authorities throughout the administered territories.
But authorities are concentrating at the moment less on the causes of the murderous outbursts than on finding ways to protect an increasingly fearful and vengeful citizenry.
Police Inspector General Ya’acov Terner said there is not much the police could do, since it is impossible to assign a police officer to every citizen.
He urged the public to exercise greater caution. He promised that security forces would do a better job of screening Arab residents of the territories who enter Israel to work each day.
But Terner conceded that a number of potential killers slip through the net.
RIGHTS GROUP ALLEGES ‘TORTURE’
Police Minister Ronni Milo summoned Terner and other senior officers for a discussion Thursday about how to reduce the number of attacks. One idea was to impose further limits on the number of Arabs allowed into Israel proper from the territories. That would require the cooperation of the Israel Defense Force, which is sovereign in the territories.
Police stationed at the many checkpoints have been ordered to conduct body searches of all Arab workers entering Israel and carefully inspect their belongings.
Such searches have been sources of friction between the Palestinians and Israeli security forces. But no more effective way of deterring potential assailants has been found.
Meanwhile, B’tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, called Thursday for an “independent commission of inquiry” to investigate the interrogation and “torture” methods Palestinian prisoners are allegedly subjected to in the territories.
The report said the General Security Services, known as Shin Bet, enjoys special status and no supervision. It cited a report on the Shin Bet several years ago by a judicial committee, headed by Moshe Landau of the High Court of Justice, which condoned “moderate physical pressure” on prisoners under interrogation.
Military sources promptly countered that the report is based on the testimony of individuals suspected of security violations and therefore is suspect.
The Justice Ministry said it was impossible to react to blanket charges. If there are specific complaints, they should be filed before the authorities open an investigation, the ministry said.