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6 Arabs Killed, 35 Israeli Soldiers and Policemen Injured, 200 Arabs Jailed During Arab General Stri

March 31, 1976
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Six Arabs were killed, more than 35 Israeli soldiers and policemen were injured and over 200 Arabs were arrested in a series of violent clashes in Galilee and in the Sharon coastal plain northeast of Tel Aviv today. Demonstrations outside the Knesset building and in East Jerusalem were dispersed and a number of arrests were made but no casualties were reported.

The violence erupted in connection with what was the first Arab general strike in Israel’s history, called by the pro-Moscow Rakah Communist Party to protest the government’s planned expropriation of Arab land in Galilee. The strike itself was only partially successful. Labor Exchanges reported that 80 percent of the Arab labor force reported for work today. But those who stayed home forced the shut-down of some factories in northern Israel and a number of construction sites employing Arab labor were idle. The authorities, who accused Rakah of fomenting the strike, said the Arabs who failed to show up for work today would be dismissed.

The West Bank, where disturbances had been escalating for the past month, was reported generally quiet, though shops and schools were closed in a number of towns. The strike was generally ignored by Arabs in the Gaza Strip except in Khan Yunis where school students staged a demonstration that was dispersed by police. No casualties were reported.

FORCED TO DEFEND THEMSELVES

According to security sources, Israeli soldiers, police and border police were forced to use firearms to defend themselves against Arab mobs hurling stones, brandishing torches and throwing lighted cans of gasoline at military and private vehicles. Arabs blocked roads in many parts of Galilee by burning mounds of rubber tires and attacked soldiers and police trying to remove the road blocks, the sources reported.

An Egged bus was stoned in Dier Hanna village in Galilee. Four Israeli soldiers in the bus were injured by glass splinters. Later a group of Arab youngsters hurled torches at a military truck setting fire to its canvas cover. Soldiers first fired into the air but were forced to fire into the attacking mobs to defend themselves, security sources said. One Arab was killed and several were wounded in the melee in which a number of soldiers and policemen also sustained injuries. Town elders tried to calm the mob but were unsuccessful until police re-enforcements arrived and began arresting the perpetrators.

A 16-year-old Arab high school student was killed when police fired into a mob at Kfar Kanna near Nazareth. The incident occurred when police trying to remove a pile of burning tires from the Nazareth-Tiberias main road fired tear gas at attacking students, mainly girls. The youngsters were soon joined by adults and border police reenforcements were rushed to the scene. The police commander was injured.

HUNDREDS VIOLATE CURFEW

Four Arab villages in Upper Galilee–Beth Netofa, Dier el Hanna, Araba and Sakhnin–were placed under 24-hour curfew last night as potential trouble spots. Serious trouble erupted at Sakhnin at 8 a.m. local time when, as if by pre-arrangement, hundreds of Arabs burst into the streets in violation of the curfew and clashed with Israeli soldiers patrolling the village. Groups of soldiers, surrounded by torch-carrying mobs, fired into the air and then into the crowd killing three villagers and wounding an unspecified number who were hospitalized.

The disturbances spread to three large Arab villages in the eastern Sharon region–Tirah, Taibeh and Kalansuwa. The most serious trouble occurred at Tireh where police and villagers clashed over a roadblock. Seven policemen were injured by stones. Border police who were rushed to the scene opened fire, killing one Arab and wounding two others. Thirty-seven villagers were arrested.

The strike situation was mixed in East Jerusalem. Shops in the Old City remained open but outside the walls all business was suspended and schools were closed. About 20 Arab students from the Hebrew University were detained after police broke up an illegal demonstration outside the Knesset. On the West Bank, Nablus, Tubas, Tulkarem, Kalkilya and Jenin were paralyzed by strikes. There was a partial strike in Hebron but business was conducted normally in Ramallah and Bethlehem.

In Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, shops and gasoline stations were open this morning and public transportation was normal. But students staged a walk-out in the afternoon, forcing the schools to close. An attempted demonstration was broken up and two persons were arrested but no violence was reported.

(In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Funseth said he had “no direct comment insofar as the U.S. government is concerned” regarding the situation in the Galilee.” But obviously we regret violence in that part of the world that results in human suffering–Arab or Israeli,” he added.)

(In New York, about 50 American Palestinians held an hour-long demonstration this afternoon in front of the Israel Mission to the United Nations. They carried signs protesting Israeli “oppression” of the Arab population in the West Bank and Israel and chanted slogans such as “Palestine yes, Israel no.” Police were reinforced at the site of the protest but there were no incidents.)

VILLAGE LEADERS ASK FOR POLICE PROTECTION

The Police Commissioner for northern Israel said tonight that the Arabs who were killed and injured in today’s disturbances were in all cases fired on in self-defense by police and soldiers whose lives were menaced by rampaging mobs. He said that in some cases Arab village leaders called in the Israeli police for protection against rioters who were attacking the local councils.

The Police Commissioner addressed a press conference at police headquarters in Nazareth where earlier in the day Arab youngsters stoned the home of Mayor Tewfik Zaid, injuring several of his relatives and damaging the building. Ironically, Zaid is a Knesset member of Rakah. Zaid was elected Mayor of Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab town, on the Rakah ticket.

The Police Commissioner said that the strike organizers probably did not intend to resort to violence but agitation by pro-Communists and other extremists led to the situation getting out of control and the only response was the use of force.

INCITEMENT BY MINORITY

Police Minister Shlomo Hillel said much the same thing at a press conference in Jerusalem this evening. He expressed regret over the loss of lives and injuries, which included 31 civilians. He said this was the result of a campaign of incitement by a subversive minority. Many local leaders seemed to agree that if pro-Communist elements had not incited Arab youths to attack soldiers and police, the incidents of violence could have been avoided and the general strike, which was only partially successful, would have passed almost unnoticed.

The situation in northern Israel and the Sharon valley was reported calmer late this afternoon. No new incidents were reported since noon (local time). The curfew was lifted at Arabs village. Authorities said the curfews would be lifted at Deir Hanna and Sakhnin as well after the local leaders promised to maintain order.

Meanwhile, as of this evening, 243 candidates had registered for the West Bank mayoral and town council elections to be held April 12. Observers said the number was not large considering that 199 seats were being contested. Registration ends tomorrow night.

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