JERUSALEM (Jan. 15)
Tension in the West Bank and Gaza Strip seethed Wednesday, as militant Jews attempted to erect settlements at the sites of recent terrorist attacks, while Israel Defense Force troops tried to prevent them.
It was the settlers’ response to attacks by Arab gunmen that have left four Jews dead since the end of October, when the current round of Arab-Israeli peace talks opened.
The situation was further aggravated Wednesday by the mysterious shooting death of an Israeli Druse on a hunting trip in the West Bank.
The settlers, who oppose the peace talks in principle, were most inflamed by the ambush Tuesday on a passenger bus in the West Bank. Two radical Arab groups opposed to the peace process have claimed credit for the attack.
Six Jewish settlers, two of them children, and one Arab were wounded when an Egged bus traveling from Jerusalem to the settlement of Shiloh came under fire near Ramallah.
The Jews were passengers on the bus while the Arab was driving a private car just behind it. All were hospitalized. Two of the victims were reported in serious condition.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah each claimed credit for the attack.
It was the second ambush in the West Bank since Oct. 29, the eve of the opening of the Madrid peace conference, when a bus carrying Jewish settlers to a Tel Aviv rally against the peace talks was riddled with bullets. The bus driver and a woman riding the bus were killed.
12-YEAR-OLD WOUNDED TWICE
By a bizarre twist of fate, 12-year-old Dov Wiener, who was wounded in the Oct. 29 incident, was hit again in his legs Tuesday evening on the bus he was taking for a final medical checkup.
Following the ambush, scores of settlers tried to establish five settlements in the West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip.
The would-be settlers were confronted by IDF troops at each location. Twenty were arrested at the Ginal junction, just outside the West Bank city of Jenin, when they refused to leave.
In Hebron, soldiers hauled off dozens of settlers who resisted the removal of freshly erected mobile homes, but none was arrested.
At a third site, outside Ramallah, a mobile home and trailer became mired in mud. The army arrested four settlers who refused to leave.
IDF troops surrounded a fourth encampment in the West Bank, waiting for orders from Defense Minister Moshe Arens to evacuate it.
Jewish militants are still occupying Palestinian land near the Gaza Strip settlement of Kfar Darom, where a Jew was fatally shot last month.
Meanwhile, the Druse community in northern Israel is up in arms over the murder of Mufied Cana’an, 45, from Yarka village in Galilee.
He was on a hunting trip with friends near Jenin when he went off on his own and was later found shot dead.
The Yarka village council announced it would hereafter not allow Arabs from the administered territories into its village.
Salah Tarif, head of the Council of Druse Mayors, said the ban would apply to all 17 Druse villages in Israel.