JERUSALEM (Feb. 26)
The death of an Israeli soldier in the Nablus casbah on Friday has stirred angry reactions in Israel and revived a longstanding debate over the tactical deployment of security forces in the administered territories.
Sgt. Maj. Binyamin Meisner, 25, was killed when a building block was dropped on his head from a from a rooftop. He was buried Sunday in Kiryat Tivon, where he lived.
Meisner was the fifth Israel Defense Force soldier killed since the Palestinian uprising began 15 months ago.
The attack ended several weeks of relative calm in the territories and squelched recent optimistic comment that the uprising, which Arabs call the intifada, was petering out.
Violence flared anew Sunday in the Gaza Strip. A 20-year-old Palestinian was shot to death by soldiers protecting an Israeli tax collector who had come under a hail of stones from local youths.
The fatality was identified as Ahmed Abed Moharram. Several other Palestinians were wounded in the clash.
A worker at the Shifta Hospital in Gaza was killed by an unknown gunman Sunday. The victim reportedly was suspected of collaboration with the Israeli authorities.
Meanwhile, leaflet No. 36, the latest issued by the clandestine Palestinian leadership of the uprising, called on East Jerusalem Arabs to boycott the Jerusalem municipal elections to be held Tuesday.
But attention was riveted on Nablus, the largest Arab town in the West Bank.
A curfew clamped on the entire city Friday remained in force Sunday as the IDF continued house-to-house searches for the perpetrators. Families were forced out of their homes while the searches were conducted.
SEVERAL ARRESTS REPORTED
At least 20 local residents were reported arrested, though the IDF refused to disclose the actual number. Western news agencies reported as many as 150 had been detained.
Gen. Amram Mitzna, commander of the central sector, said there was a good chance the actual perpetrators would be caught.
The top story of the building from where the rock was dropped was destroyed by the IDF Windows overlooking the alley where the soldier died were sealed off.
Building blocks are considered a lethal weapon by the IDF. Nine soldiers have been injured by them while patrolling Arab towns and villages. One was permanently paralyzed below the waist a year ago.
The IDF posts lookouts on rooftops to forestall such attacks. So far they have killed 10 Palestinians and wounded 30, all said to have been poised to drop rocks on soldiers patrolling the alleyways below.
The rock that killed Meisner weighed 33 pounds and was dropped from the roof of a three-story building.
The incident occurred Friday afternoon, as six paratroopers patrolled Yasmin Street in the casbah, as the old quarter of town is called.
The soldiers were suddenly attacked by a barrage of stones. They chased the masked assailants through the narrow alleys leading off the street.
As Meisner’s group was running along one alley, the rock was dropped, striking him on the back of the neck. He died shortly afterward.
Meisner was an immigrant from Argentina. He was an outstanding member of the Kiryat Tivon water polo team.
His father, Erik Meisner, remarked at the funeral. “That’s it, what is there to do? This is our life here.”
DEBATE OVER TACTICAL DEPLOYMENT
But right-wing members of the Knesset had suggestions about what should be done.
Rafael Eitan of the Tsomet party, a former IDF chief of staff, said 10 Arab buildings near the scene of the attack should have been demolished immediately and 100 Palestinian youths deported to Lebanon.
Geula Cohen of the Tehiya party thought buildings should be demolished in the casbah to turn the alleys into wider thoroughfares.
But both Ran Cohen of the leftist Citizens Rights Movement and Yehuda Pcrah of Likud questioned Sunday whether soldiers should be deployed in the casbah at all, as long as they control the main streets and traffic arteries in the territories.
However, the IDF chief of staff, Gen. Dan Shomron, argues vigorously that the army must be seen everywhere in the territories, from the cities to the smallest villages.
“To control Judea and Samaria and Gaza, we must be able to reach everywhere,” Shomron insisted over the weekend.