No serious progress was reported today in the investigation of the bomb attacks against Arab mayors on the West Bank Monday. The police laboratory reported that the explosives used were standard army issue. But police sources insisted that this was not positive proof that the outrage was perpetrated by Jews because a great deal of army equipment has fallen into the hands of Arab terrorists in the past.
Nevertheless, security agencies are known to be focussing on at least three groups of Jewish extremists as likely suspects. One is the ultranationalist “Koch” movement headed by Rabbi Meir Kahane who has long advocated the expulsion of Arabs from Israel and the occupied territories and the use of force against them. Another is the Gush Emunim, the militant Orthodox settlers movement which lately has been accusing the government of not taking a sufficiently hard line against Palestinian nationalists and not providing adequate protection for the settlers on the West Bank.
The third group under investigation is a hitherto unknown cell of Jewish extremists which the police have not identified by name. Earlier this week, Israeli newspapers received calls from anonymous persons who claimed, in one case that a group called “Bnei Zion” was responsible for the bombings and in another that it was a group called “Counter Terror Unit.” Neither name was known to the authorities.
Last night, the Israel Press Association news agency Itim received a call from a person who said he represented a group called “Terror Against Terror” which, he claimed, had 250 members and had supplied a “counter-terrorist unit” with the explosives for the bombs. The caller, who spoke Sabra (native Israeli) Hebrew and said he was calling from Netanya, warned that the group planned more acts against Arabs in Jerusalem that they would “remember for a long time.” As was the case with the earlier anonymous callers, the person from Netanya insisted that his group was in no way connected with the Gush Emunim.
ARMY, POLICE DISPUTE RESPONSIBILITY
Meanwhile, a dispute emerged between the army and the police with each claiming that the other was responsible for investigating the West Bank bombings. Chief of Staff Gen. Raphael Eitan told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee yesterday that it was entirety, a police matter. A senior police source said, however, that the investigation was the task of the Military Government and that the police were only supplying technical assistance.
Shops and businesses reopened in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank this afternoon despite a three-day general strike declared by West Bank leaders to protest Monday’s bombings. But Arab merchants said they were forced by the Israeli military and police to open for business on penalty of arrest. Last night, Jerusalem police herded about 120 Arab merchants into local police stations and served them with written orders to open their shops today or face penalties of up to three months in jail. This morning, police accompanied the shopkeepers to their stores to make sure they complied.
The merchants complained that they were being squeezed between the Israeli authorities and supporters of the Palestine Liberation Organization who have threatened them with dire consequences if they ignored the strike. They reported cases where PLO terrorists planted bombs or set fire to stores that were open and said they had insufficient police protection. Police arrested two East Jerusalem Arabs today on suspicion of threatening merchants who opened their shops.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.