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Israeli Leaders Try to Calm Settlers Restive After Killings

Israeli military and political leaders sought this week to calm increasingly restless Jewish settlers, who have clashed violently with Palestinians in the wake of several recent killings of both Arabs and Jews.

Some 300 settlers from the Gaza Strip’s Katif Bloc and from the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba demonstrated Monday night outside Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s residence.

The demonstration began quietly, but several demonstrators crossed police barricades, sat in the middle of the street and disturbed the traffic. Ten demonstrators were held by police for questioning.

A Gush Katif settler turned himself in to police Tuesday, admitting he had fired the shots that killed a 22-year-old Arab youth during a clash Monday between settlers and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Gush Katif resident was returning from the funeral of fellow settler Uri Megidish, who was stabbed to death by Arabs earlier in the day.

Megidish was killed by two of his Palestinian workers as he drove them to his settlement’s greenhouse.

Although the security forces knew the identity of Megidish’s killers, they have been unable so far to find and capture them.

Enraged settlers returning from Megidish’s funeral clashed with Palestinians at several spots in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmad al-Madhoun was shot dead near the main entrance to the strip from Israel proper.

The settler who confessed to shooting al-Madhoun was described as a 43-year-old resident of Moshav Ganei Tal, but his name was not released.

Police said they intended to detain more Israeli settlers who allegedly fired indiscriminately at Arab workers on their return from the funeral.

LABORITES TO DISCUSS GAZA’S FUTURE

The Israel Defense Force chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak, visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and urged Jewish settlers to show restraint.

"Citizens of Israel, even those living in the Gaza Strip, know that no one may take the law into his own hands, and whoever does so will be dealt with accordingly," Barak said on army radio.

The string of bloody attacks, including one in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian laborer from Gaza who fatally stabbed two Israelis, has prompted a debate about whether Israel should unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

Despite objections by Labor Party leaders, the Knesset Labor caucus has decided to discuss the fate of the strip in light of growing demands by the party rank and file to pull out of Gaza.

The demand to discuss Gaza was raised, among others, by party faction whip Avi Yehezkel and Knesset members Shlomo Buhbut and Yosef Vanunu.

Health Minister Haim Ramon is one of the most outspoken supporters of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, but the demand has been rejected outright by senior ministers such as Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Yossi Sarid.

The deputy army chief of staff, Gen. Amnon Shahak, appeared before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to explain how the army intended to curb the Gaza terrorism.

Shahak said the army was planning to set up sophisticated metal detectors at the crossing from Gaza into Israel proper that would help soldiers pick out Arab workers carrying knives and explosives.

But Shahak said that security measures at the crossing point could not completely block murderers from entering Israel proper. The terrorists would always find an alternative way, he said.

The army also intended to invest more than $100,000 to set up road signs that would help prevent Israelis from entering Palestinian population centers by mistake. This was the case last week with Yehoshua Weissbrod, who entered the Rafah refugee camp and was stoned by a mob and shot to death.

Shahak explained that one of the reasons why violence is more severe in Gaza than in the West Bank is the deteriorating economic situation in Gaza and the existence of vast amounts of arms and ammunition in that area.

Referring to reports that Catherine Striker, an American working in Gaza for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, failed to prevent Weissbrod’s murder, Shahak said relations between Israel and UNRWA were not good.

The U.N. organization employs mainly local Arab workers and has often obstructed security operations.

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