Arab-jewish Tensions Escalate with Stabbing of Rabbi in Gaza

The second fatal stabbing of a Jew by an Arab this week has set off a new wave of fury in Israel, adding to the anti-Arab rage that followed the first murder on Sunday.

The latest victim was Rabbi Shimon Biran, rabbi of Kfar Darom, a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip. Biran, 32, the father of four, was attacked early Wednesday morning as he left the settlement gates and was about to cross the street.

His assailant, identified as Ahmad Ibrahim Ahmed, 19, a resident of the nearby Arab town of Deir el-Balah, was captured after a brief chase in which he was seriously hurt.

The stabbing followed by 72 hours the murder of 15-year-old Helena Rapp in Bat Yam, a seaside township south of Tel Aviv, while she waited for a bus to school outside her home early Sunday.

Although her assailant, a Gaza Arab, was swiftly taken into custody, the killing touched off two days of rioting in Bat Yam, Rishon le-Zion, Holon and other towns in the Greater Tel Aviv area, which had hardly subsided when the latest murder occurred.

In Wednesday’s killing of the rabbi, police reported that the assailant stalked his victim from behind and killed him instantly with a single plunge of a knife.

A settler driving by chased the killer and struck him with his car. A soldier on guard at the entrance to Kfar Darom fired at the fleeing man, seriously wounding him.

Following the latest killing, Jewish settlers set Palestinian fields and hothouses ablaze. An Israeli photographer was reported beaten, as well as two Arabs, according to Israel Radio.

New riots erupted in Kfar Darom and in neighboring Gaza Strip settlements. Furious settlers descended on Deir el-Balah to wreak vengeance on the local Arabs.

Others set fire to fields cultivated by Arabs and burned two greenhouses.

GAZA STRIP TO REMAIN CLOSED

The settlers tried to take over a local school and threatened to harm the children inside. They were thwarted by Israel Defense Force soldiers, who evacuated the school. But settlers used a bulldozer to knock down a wall in the Arab town.

The army clamped a curfew on Deir el-Balah and also blocked entry to Kfar Darom to prevent other settlers from gathering there.

The IDF’s measures aimed at preventing bloodshed aroused the settlers against the soldiers. At one point, armed settlers fired into the air during an attempt to break into the blockaded settlement.

In an unrelated incident, Israeli soldiers reportedly shot dead a Palestinian woman in the West Bank city of Jenin after a bus carrying soldiers was stoned.

Palestinians in Jenin closed their stores in a sign of mourning after Najiyeh al-Ayed Zakarneh, 55, was killed.

The incident was being investigated, Israeli military sources said.

The unrest in Gaza followed two nights of rioting in Bat Yam, where hundreds of Jewish demonstrators clashed with police. Gangs of angry youths ran amok searching in vain for Arab workers in local restaurants and catering halls where many are employed.

But no Arab has reported for work in the last four days. The IDF sealed off the Gaza Strip after Sunday’s murder, mainly to prevent Arab day-workers from entering Israel proper while a lynch mood prevailed.

The territory originally was to be reopened Thursday. But the Defense Ministry announced Wednesday that it would remain closed until next week as a security precaution.

In the absence of Arabs, Jews bent on vengeance turned their wrath on the police. Several police officers were hurt and about 120 Jews were detained.

The Council of Jewish Settlements, the organization of settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, urged the government Wednesday to take drastic measures to prevent further killings.

They demanded the immediate deportation of some 1,000 Arab terrorists who were freed in a 1985 prisoner exchange with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

Mayor Ehud Kinamon of Bat Yam sympathized with the rioters. He said they had just cause following the murder of Helena Rapp.

Justice Minister Dan Meridor urged restraint. He observed that cries of “Death to the Arabs” have an unpleasant association from “other times.”

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