JERUSALEM (Sep. 18)
Two Palestinians were killed and at least 30 were wounded Saturday in one of the worst days of violence in the administered territories in weeks.
A Jewish settler from the West Bank was critically injured Friday during a rock-throwing melee. Another settler was hospitalized in Jerusalem on Saturday, after being struck by a gasoline bomb in Ramallah.
The Israel Defense Force arrested more than 100 Palestinians in massive sweeps through West Bank towns and refugee camps over the weekend.
About 400,000 Palestinians were under curfew, including half the residents of the Gaza Strip. Large areas of the West Bank were barred to journalists.
The IDF mounted its drive against Palestinian activists and local committees, which, according to Israelis, make up the unified underground command of the uprising. The intifada, as it is called, is now in its 10th month and shows no signs of abating.
But the situation has been complicated by the emergence of a new organization of Islamic fundamentalists in the territories, known as Hamas. The world means “zeal” and is an acronym for the Movement of Islamic Resistance.
Hamas is seen as a threat to the secular Palestine Liberation Organization, which has commanded the loyalty of most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip until now.
CHALLENGING PLO LEADERSHIP
Its attitude toward Israel is uncompromising. It rejects any form of negotiation aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and holds that all of Palestine, including the State of Israel, is land entrusted by God to Moslems.
Security sources said they had seized membership and contribution lists of the Islamic Resistance Movement during a week-long sweep through the West Bank town of Kalkilya earlier this month.
Video and audio cassettes were found, some of them produced in the Gaza Strip and in the Israeli Arab town of Umm el-Fahm.
The Islamic movement appears to be growing in strength. It is challenging the PLO for leadership of the uprising, exposing the first visible splits within the nationalist command.
In recent weeks, Hamas has called general strikes and protests on certain days. Previously, only the PLO issued calls for strikes and civil disobedience.
The Moslem fundamentalists have demonstrated their influence by the fact that the general population has not dared to disobey their orders. Strikes called by the PLO often have been less than fully effective.
There was a rare demonstration of unity on Saturday, however, when both Hamas and the PLO called a general strike and demonstrations. The occasion was the sixth anniversary of the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps near Beirut.
During the violence that ensued, Imad Arkawi, 18, was killed by the IDF in Jenin, and Munjid Sarhan, 26, was killed in Lubban Sharkiya village, located between Ramallah and Nablus.
Heavy rioting was reported near Ramallah, in Kalkilya and in the Ein Beit Elma refugee camp.
The scenes were reminiscent of the early days of the uprising last year. Streets were blockaded, tires were burned and crowds of men, women and children pelted soldiers with stones.
Troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the rioters. Eventually they opened fire with live ammunition.
Vardi Bamberger, 25, of Pesagot, a West Bank Jewish settlement near Ramallah, sustained serious head injuries when her car was hit by a barrage of rocks Friday afternoon.
She was traveling from Beersheba to Pesagot. The incident occurred as the car passed near Dhahiriya, about 20 miles south of Hebron.
Bamberger’s husband, Shuki, who was driving, sped to a local military post from where the woman was rushed to Beersheba hospital. She underwent surgery for a fractured skull. Her condition was reported later to be improved.
She was attacked with rocks at the same site five years ago while riding with Ester Ohana of Beit She’an. Ohana was killed.
Israeli authorities, meanwhile, have banned distribution of the East Jerusalem Arabic daily Al-Fajr in the administered territories for 45 days. The ban was applied after the paper published a cartoon likening Zionism to Nazism. The ban does not apply to East Jerusalem or to Israel proper.