JERUSALEM (Jul. 9)
As the intifada entered its 44th month this week, Israeli officials expressed concern that the Palestinian uprising, long on the wane, may now be taking a new and potentially more deadly turn.
Whereas intifada activists had been relying on rocks and bottles to challenge Israeli security forces or attack settlers, firearms are now being used with increased frequency.
Two Israeli civilians badly wounded in the Gaza Strip on Sunday and Monday were hit by rifle fire. In both cases, the assailants got away, although the shootings occurred close to an Israel Defense Force observation post.
Of equal concern to the authorities is that for the first time, two known terrorist organizations claimed credit for the shootings: the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
In the earlier stages of the intifada, no group ever took responsibility.
The significance of the changes may be that the intifada is undergoing a transition from a popular mass movement of national uprising to more limited but more violent guerrilla warfare orchestrated by terrorist organizations.
Defense Minister Moshe Arens said Tuesday he was not sure that the entire Palestinian population favored the use of firearms in the intifada. But their very appearance constitutes a “grave danger for us,” he said.
Security force continued to search for the gunmen who seriously wounded 54-year-old Moshe Buchris in the Gaza Strip on Sunday and Amnon Yahalomi, 48, shot at the same location Monday.
The towns of Khan Yunis and nearby refugee camps were put under curfew after the shootings. Nearby houses and orchards were searched. Residents of Khan Yunis and Rafah were detained for questioning.
The start of the 44th month of the intifada Tuesday was marked by a general strike that kept at least two-thirds of the work force in the administered territories away from their jobs in Israel.
Jews employing Arabs from the Gaza Strip did not risk driving into the territory to pick up their workers but waited for them at exit points staffed by soldiers. Only about 10,000 Arab laborers showed up for work Tuesday, about a third the usual number.
The day was also disrupted by a brutal murder. Masked Arab men broke into the Shifa government hospital in Gaza City early Tuesday morning and stabbed to death Lutfi Mas’ud Abu As, a 26-year-old Gaza resident suspected of collaborating with the Israelis.
The victim had been hospitalized as a result of an earlier attack.