JERUSALEM (Mar. 8)
Palestinian workers in the Gaza Strip this week stabbed to death a Jewish settler who employed them, bringing to four the number of Israelis murdered by Arabs in one week.
The killing of 39-year-old Uri Megidish occurred early Monday, just as the army reopened the Gaza Strip after a six-day closure prompted by an attack last week.
There appeared to be no end in sight to the rising tide of violence, as a Palestinian was shot dead later Monday during a clash with enraged settlers who were returning to the Gaza Strip after burying Megidish.
Palestinian witnesses said the slain Arab, identified as Naim al-Madhoun, 22, was shot by one of the settlers demonstrating at a road junction in the strip But the settlers said al-Madhoun was shot by one of his companions.
The army said it was investigating the incident.
There was at least one other clash between settlers and Palestinians elsewhere in the strip, as well as the more common clashes between soldiers and Palestinians.
In Megidish’s brutal murder, two Arab laborers fatally stabbed him as Megidish was driving them to his tomato greenhouse at the Jewish settlement of Gan Or.
The assailants then dumped Megidish’s body at the greenhouse, where he was discovered shortly afterward by another Arab worker.
Megidish was married with four children.
The attackers’ identities were apparently known, since they had been working for Megidish for the past few weeks.
Soldiers began a house-to-house search in the nearby Arab town of Khan Yunis, in an effort to capture the attackers.
PLO-LINKED GROUP CLAIMS CREDIT
The Hawks, an armed gang affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mainstream Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Gan Or settlement is situated at the southern end of the Gaza Strip, between the Arab towns of Khan Yunis and Rafah. Most of its 40 families are farmers, and during this time of year, the peak tomato-picking season, the moshav employs more than 100 local Palestinians.
Even in the wake of the murder, local Jewish farmers said they had no choice but to continue hiring Palestinian laborers. They said unemployed Israelis did not want to come to work there.
Megidish’s murder was the second in the area within a week. On March 2, an Israeli driver mistakenly entered Rafah refugee camp, where he was stoned by a mob and shot to death.
And a day before that, a Gaza laborer entered Israel proper and went on a stabbing spree, killing two Israelis in the heart of Tel Aviv.
It was the Tel Aviv attack that caused the army to seal off the Gaza Strip for six days, preventing Arab laborers from reaching jobs in Israel proper.
On Monday, long lines formed at the Erez checkpoint between Gaza and Israel proper as the army adopted stricter security measures in an effort to filter out security risks.
But the added security did not stop Palestinian attackers; they just chose a target within the Gaza Strip.
Since the first attack in Tel Aviv, and now sustained by the murders in Gaza, a renewed public debate has been raised about whether Israel should unilaterally withdraw from Gaza.
The most outspoken supporter of such a move is Health Minister Haim Ramon, who reiterated at the weekly Cabinet session Sunday that Israel should set a timetable for its withdrawal from the strip.
But Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, as well as most other ministers, object to the idea.
Housing Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Monday that such a withdrawal would turn the strip into “the largest launching base for terrorist attacks in the world.”
The opposition Likud party reacted strongly to the murder, saying it was further proof that the government’s security policy is “bankrupt.”