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Murder of Settler in the West Bank Heightens Israeli Security Concerns

The murder of a Jewish settler Tuesday night by Arab gunmen in the West Bank has heightened concern here about the rising level of random violence perpetrated by Palestinians against Jewish civilians.

It has also enraged Jewish settlers, who contend the Israel Defense Force is doing little to rectify the deteriorating security situation. They favor swift expulsion of Palestinian leaders.

The victim of Tuesday’s attack was Yair Mendelsohn, a 30-year-old father of three who lived in the West Bank settlement of Dolev, near Ramallah.

Mendelsohn was driving home from Jerusalem when his car was ambushed with a spray of bullets. He lost control of the vehicle, which crashed into a rock, killing him instantly. Rumors that he was dragged from the car and beaten to death were proved untrue upon investigation.

The incident was the first since the Persian Gulf war ended in which Palestinians attacked Jews with firearms.

But the IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Shomron, said he did not consider it a new phase of the intifada, the Palestinian uprising in the territories that began in December 1987.

An IDF dragnet Tuesday night combed the countryside around the Ramallah-Dolev road and the nearby Arab village of Ein Kiniya. The search for the killers, believed to be two men, continued Wednesday. But no arrests were reported.

Ramallah, one of the largest Arab cities in the territory, was put under a general curfew, as were the surrounding Arab villages.

But Jewish settlers were not satisfied.

Yehiel Leiter, head of the Judea and Samaria Settlers Council, demanded stronger security measures, beginning with the deportation of the intifada leadership.

PREPARATIONS FOR LAND DAY

The IDF rejected settler complaints that the latest killing was the result of inadequate security in the territory.

Maj. Gen. Danny Yatom, the newly appointed commander of the central region, pointed out that the dozens of roads in the West Bank cannot all be patrolled by soldiers at all times.

According to Leiter, the only proper response to the murder is to expand the number of settlements in the territories and increase the number of settlers.

Meanwhile, tension rose as Arabs in the territories and Israel proper prepared to observe Land Day this Saturday. The occasion is the anniversary of the forcible seizure of Arab land in Galilee by the IDF in 1975, in which a number of Arabs were killed.

The observance has been non-violent in recent years, and Israeli police maintained a low profile on the outskirts of Israeli Arab villages.

This year, however, Police Inspector General Ya’acov Terner reserved the right to send his men into the villages. He dismissed Arab arguments that the change of policy would cause needless friction.

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