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Arab Mayors Offer Condolences; Army Seals off the Territories

April 21, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Eight Israeli Arab mayors called on Islamic religious leaders in East Jerusalem Wednesday to offer condolences for the death of Khalil al-Wazir. In so doing, they sent what many here consider to be a disturbing message to Israelis.

Wazir, second in command of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was gunned down Saturday morning in a commando-style attack on his villa in a suburb of Tunis. Palestinians are convinced he was assassinated by the Israeli secret service, Mossad.

The Israelis considered Wazir the mastermind of the four-month-old Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Whether or not this was true, he was a hero to the Palestinians in the territories, particularly after his death.

The mayoral delegation acknowledged Israeli Arab solidarity with those Palestinians by visiting with members of the Supreme Moslem Council, caretakers of Islamic shrines on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The delegation was headed by Ibrahim Nimer Hussein, chairman of the National Committee of Arab Mayors, a well-known moderate who has carefully avoided confrontations with the Israeli political establishment in the past.

Israeli Arabs in general have refrained from overt expressions of support for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, at least until the uprising began on Dec. 9.

However, on Dec. 21, Israel’s Arab population staged a general strike in solidarity with the uprising. It was marked by several incidents of violence.

The Arab community has been largely quiescent since then. But its gesture of mourning for Wazir indicates a further “Plasticization” of Israel’s Arab citizens, analysts here say.

Mohammad Ghanaim, deputy chairman of the Council of Mayors, said the visit to the Temple Mount was not intended to be provocative. Wazir, known by his nom de guerre, Abu Jihad (father of the holy war), was “an Arab hero,” and Arabs mourn their fallen heroes just as the Israelis do, Ghanaim said.


The condolence visit coincided with Remembrance Day in Israel, a day of mourning for the nation’s war dead that precedes Independence Day. Israel is to mark the 40th year of its independence on Thursday. Festivities began Wednesday night.

One Likud member of the Knesset, Michael Eitan, was angered by the mayors’ display of mourning for Wazir. He has been on a sit-in strike at the Justice Ministry for the past three weeks, demanding a tougher policy toward Israeli Arabs who identify “with the enemy.”

Eitan called Wednesday for government offices to cut off all contacts with the Council of Arab Mayors.

In East Jerusalem, the situation remained tense, but calm, as Israelis prepared to celebrate Independence Day. A gasoline bomb was thrown at a border police patrol near the Old City’s Herod’s Gate Tuesday night, but caused no injuries or damage.

The entire Arab sector of East Jerusalem was shut down by a general strike Wednesday. But tourists strolled through the streets, apparently feeling secure.

Minor incidents were reported from the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Wednesday. An Israeli soldier was hit in the eye by a stone as youthful demonstrators skirmished with security forces in Ramallah. Several arrests were made.


Very little was known about the situation in the territories, because the army has virtually sealed them off for the second time in less than a month. The news media are barred from entering most localities.

Most refugee camps and a number of towns, including Nablus, have been under strict curfew for the past week. Travel within the territories is restricted and Arabs are not permitted to enter Israel proper.

This includes the thousands of day laborers who are the mainstay of the construction industry in Israel and also work in restaurants and hotels. But the Israel Defense Force has barred them in order to avoid possible incidents during the Independence Day celebrations.

Similar measures were taken during the week of March 30, when Palestinians observed Land Day, the 12th anniversary of the confiscation of Arab lands in Galilee by the IDF. The day passed virtually without incident in Israel itself, but riots erupted in the territories despite curfews and a massive IDF presence.

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