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Cabinet Backs Unrest Policies, As Violence Centers Around Gaza

January 11, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Israeli government fully supports the strategies the defense establishment is using to maintain law and order in the administered territories, Premier Yitzhak Shmir said Sunday.

He spoke after the Cabinet devoted its weekly session to the continuing disturbances there.

The West Bank was relatively quiet over the weekend. But the Gaza Strip, gripped by an Arab general strike, seethed with violence. Two Palestinians were killed there Friday and Saturday and several were wounded.

Three Israeli policemen were wounded Sunday in clashes with Arab demonstrators in East Jerusalem where a commercial strike was almost totally effective. Nineteen more Arabs were detained.

Shamir found it necessary at the Cabinet meeting to “clarify” persistent reports in the news media that he had proposed negotiating autonomy for the Gaza Strip once conditions there return to normal. He supposedly made that proposal at a meeting with several visiting U.S. senators, all members of the Republican Party.

The prime minister said he had merely noted to the American lawmakers that autonomy was part of the 1978 Camp David Accords, to be applied to both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Negotiations between Israel and Egypt began shortly after Sinai was returned to Egypt in compliance with their 1979 peace treaty. But the talks were stalemated from the start because of widely divergent interpretations of autonomy by Cairo and Jerusalem. The talks have not resumed.

The Gaza Strip continued to be the main trouble spot over the weekend. Rioting broke out there last Dec. 9 and has continued almost unabated since then.


Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who briefed the Cabinet after visiting the territory Sunday, told the ministers that religious incitement was one of the factors behind the rioting there.

The muezzin who call the faithful to prayer use the loudspeakers mounted on the minarets of mosques to exhort Palestinian youths to battle the Israeli security forces. There was heavy stone-throwing and tire-burning throughout the territory Sunday.

A Palestinian youth identified as Bassem Hader Mossalam, 17, of the Khan Yunis refugee camp, was killed by Israel Defense Force soldiers Saturday during a riot.

Khalid Awadeh, 22, was killed Friday at the Bureij refugee camp. Mazen Zaki Mossalam, 15, was killed at the Maghazi refugee camp near Khan Yunis last Thursday night. It was not known if he was related to Hader Mossalam.

The 50,000 Gazan Arabs who have jobs in Israel stayed home Saturday. Some were observing the general strike called by the Islamic Jihad (holy war), a religious fundamentalist group. Others were afraid to go to Israel. The taxis that usually take them to their jobs came under hails of rocks.

Rabin warned the Arab population that the longer the riots continue, the more they will suffer. He said the IDF was determined to impose law and order, but it would take time. “It’s not a matter of a day or two, don’t use a stop-watch,” he told reporters.

Rabin, addressing the Commerce and Industry Club in Tel Aviv Friday, stated that terrorist agitators are not responsible for the violence in the territories. The disturbances reflect tensions that have been building there for more than 20 years and are not the result of calls to violence by Palestinian organizations, he said.

“The Palestinian terrorist organizations trying to claim credit (for the unrest) are exaggerating,” the defense minister said. His point of view seems to conflict with that of Shamir, who has blamed the violence on the Palestine Liberation Organization.


In fact, the PLO appears to have been left behind by events and is trying to catch up. Maariv reported Sunday that an emergency session of the PLO’s Central Council, which ended in Baghdad Saturday night, decided to support the uprisings in the territories as a means to solve the Palestinian problem.

Maariv quoted sources in Baghdad assaying that the PLO’s top leadership made no decision on whether to introduce terrorist squads into the territories to escalate the “armed struggle.”

Rabin also called on international institutions to help finance the rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugee camps. He referred indirectly to scathing criticism leveled against Israel last week by a visiting British diplomat, David Mellor.

Mellor, minister of state for foreign affairs, called conditions in the Gaza Strip “appalling” and an “affront to civilized values.” He also chided Israel for allegedly taking money out of the territory but not putting any back in.

Mellor’s remarks prompted Shmuel Goren, coordinator of government activities in the territories, to suggest that the time has come for foreign guests visiting the refugee camps to help the persons they define as “poor refugees.”

The Israeli news media reported Sunday that all males in the El-Nasser refugee camp in Gaza were arrested Saturday night. Haaretz reported that IDF soldiers, under strict orders to fire their weapons at rioters only if their lives are in immediate danger, are now hurling rocks back at the stone-throwers — and routing them.

Haaretz also quoted political sources as saying they had no objections to United Nations Undersecretary General Marrack Goulding visiting the administered territories, because he will see at first hand the restraint exercised by Israeli soldiers.


In a related development, Al Hamishmar reported Sunday that Secretary of State George Shultz made it clear to the Israeli ambassador in Washington, Moshe Arad, that the United States is prepared for a confrontation with Israel if it proceeds with the deportation of nine Palestinian activists.

The deportation orders were issued on Jan. 3 and the judicial process has begun. According to the newspaper, Shultz proposed that the Palestinians be held in Israeli jails. Hadashot reported that Shultz has instructed the State Department’s senior echelons not to exacerbate the conflict with Israeli policies.

According to other media reports, Arad has informed the government that American media coverage of disturbances in the territories is doing severe damage to Israel’s image in the United States.

Zeev Schiff, Haaretz’s military correspondent, wrote Sunday that Israel’s political and military echelons have yet to come up with a solution to the most recent rioting. “The punitive measures taken by Israel have become a strategy in and of themselves, instead of being only a means,” he said.

Schiff also warned: “This time, the demonstrators are organized. It was therefore a mistake to guarantee that tranquility in the territories was in the offing.”

(Tel Aviv correspondent Hugh Orgel contributed to this report.)

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