The territories burst into violence again this week, following the killing of six Palestinians on Monday by Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip.
The six were members of the Fatah Eagles, the armed wing of Al Fatah, the mainstream faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasser Arafat.
In Tuesday’s unrest, a 17-year-old youth was killed and more than 60 people were injured.
And in Petach Tikvah, in a related incident, a 70-year-old Jewish worker was attacked by two ax-wielding Arab workers who smashed his skull. The man was in critical condition on Tuesday evening. A manhunt was launched for his assailants, who came from the Gaza Strip.
The killings of the Fatah Eagles members in the Jabalya refugee camp came when members of an Israel Defense Force squad disguised as Arabs spotted a group of uniformed, kerchief-masked armed men in the camp about to enter a car.
Apparently in accordance with standing orders, the soldiers immediately and without warning opened fire at point-blank range, killing six of the Eagles who had been attending a local convention. None of the men killed was on an IDF wanted list.
Since the signing of the Israeli-PLO peace accord last fall, an unwritten agreement has kept the IDF away from uniformed Fatah men. The Fatah faction is the backbone of the PLO and the group most supportive of the Israeli-PLO accord.
Monday night’s attack, generally regarded in Israel as a most regrettable mistake, caused widespread bitterness throughout the territories.
Israeli officials sought to assure the Pales tinian leadership in telephone and fax contacts that the shooting was unintended.
IDF sources said Tuesday night the soldiers had presumed the six were terrorists, belonging to fundamentalist or rejectionist movements, intent on perpetrating an attack on Jews.
By the same token, the attack in Petach Tikva provided fresh ammunition to those in Israel who are opposed to the accord with the PLO.
In Hebron, a Passover convention of rabbis and yeshiva students in the territories applauded calls for massive resistance to any attempt to uproot settlers from the historic West Bank town, where a Jewish settler killed at least 29 Arab worshipers Feb. 25.
“We will act so that every IDF soldier fully understands that he does not have the backing of the people.” one of the rabbis said.
In a similar, if more restrained vein, former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon called for passive resistance to any evacuation of settlers from anywhere in the territories.