Hundreds of suspected Palestinian activists have been arrested by Israeli security forces in widespread pre-emptive sweeps of the West Bank during the past few days.
There were massive roundups Monday night in the Ramallah area, following smaller-scale raids in and around Bethlehem last weekend.
In May, the Israel Defense Force and border police seized about 250 members of the Moslem fundamentalist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip. But the latest arrests were in regions heavily populated by Christian Arabs.
According to security sources, the moves are calculated to smash the infrastructure of the Palestinian uprising. The IDF described the detainees as “leading activists in the popular committees and the shock committees.”
The popular committees organize demonstrations and offer independent services to help the local Palestinian population run their lives under the military occupation.
The shock committees are the popular committees’ military arms, which enforce commercial strikes and other directives from the uprising’s leadership.
NEW ARREST ORDERS
The IDF chief of staff, Gen. Dan Shomron, confirmed Tuesday that the army is accelerating its search and arrest operations. He told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the purpose is to inhibit the shock committees by such methods as midnight raids on the homes of suspected activists and the confiscation of work permits needed for jobs in Israel.
Shomron disclosed that new rules in effect in the Gaza Strip require soldiers to regard every masked Palestinian as a suspect subject to immediate arrest.
If the suspect fails to respond to orders to halt, the soldier must fire into the air first and then open fire on the suspect with plastic bullets, Shomron said.
His disclosure drew mixed reactions from Knesset members. Yossi Sarid of the dovish Citizens Rights Movement said the new orders “smelled illegal.”
But Geula Cohen of the right-wing party Tehiya said Palestinians who incite openly are more dangerous than those who hide their identity. Tehiya has long advocated mass deportations for incitement.
Meanwhile, a West Bank military court on Tuesday convicted six Arabs of murdering Sgt. Maj. Benny Meisner in Nablus on Feb. 24.
Meisner, an IDF paratrooper, was on patrol in the Nablus casbah when a cement block was dropped on him.
Sentences will be pronounced in two weeks.
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.