100 Detainees Freed in Gaza, As Crime Rate Soars in Hebron
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100 Detainees Freed in Gaza, As Crime Rate Soars in Hebron

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Military authorities loosened their grip somewhat on the Palestinian population in the administered territories this week, as the 10-day-old curfew in Nablus was lifted and more than 100 security prisoners were freed in Gaza.

But Palestinians on Monday observed yet another general strike, protesting the ongoing closure of almost the entire educational system in the territories.

The security prisoners were released from the Ketziot detention camp in the Negev and brought to the Gaza Strip as a goodwill gesture on the occasion of the Moslem feast of Isra Wal-Miiraj, which marks the prophet Mohammed’s ascent to heaven.

The curfew in Nablus, imposed after the Feb. 24 murder of Israeli reserve soldier Binyamin Meisner, was lifted after apparent progress had been made in the murder investigation.

Yediot Aharonot reported Monday that the chase after Meisner’s killers had “tightened.” No further details were given.

The army continued its house-to-house searches over the weekend in the Nablus casbah, where the killing took place. During the searches, another soldier in Meisner’s unit was slightly hurt Sunday, after being stabbed by a 63-year-old casbah resident.

The attacker was shot and wounded. His family told reporters the man attacked the soldiers because of his frustration with the continuous curfew.

SURPRISE MESSAGE FROM HAWATMEH

In the city of Hebron, tensions also flared over the weekend, albeit for a different reason. Notables of local families gathered for an emergency meeting, concerned by the growing number of crimes that have been occurring in the absence of any real police presence in the city.

Police activity has been at a markedly low level since the majority of Arab police officers resigned several months ago in response to demands of the leadership of the uprising.

Criminal elements within Palestinian society have taken advantage of the absence of law enforcement, and the number of thefts has risen dramatically.

In an effort to curb this activity, the town’s main families elected a committee, which was asked to formulate a “code of rules” that would provide for punishment according to Islamic and tribal law.

A major Palestinian guerrilla leader has addressed this problem, however. Nayef Hawatmeh, leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, issued a statement Sunday allowing police officers to return to work and urging those still serving not to resign.

This runs in complete contrast to the demands made in the beginning months of the intifada, when Palestinian civil servants were all but forced by their peers to turn in their uniforms and refuse to work under Israeli rule.

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