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IDF Orders Territories Sealed off As Authorities Brace for Land Day

March 29, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Israel Defense Force announced Monday it is sealing off the West Bank and Gaza Strip for three days, beginning at midnight Monday, to prevent anticipated disturbances linked to Land Day from spreading into Israel proper.

Israeli Arabs have already assured the authorities they will maintain order on the Palestinian day of protest Wednesday marking the 12th anniversary of the expropriation of Arab lands in Galilee.

But an extraordinary blockade will be enforced in the administered territories, where Arab-orchestrated riots have continued for nearly four months. There will be a general ban on travel between the territories and Israel proper. The West Bank and Gaza Strip will be closed military zones.

Reporters will not be allowed into the territories without special permission and must be accompanied by an escort of IDF officers.

The IDF orders published Monday stated that a curfew will be imposed on the Gaza region starting at 10 p.m. Monday, lasting until 3 a.m. Friday. Residents of the territories will not be permitted to leave them via the Jordan River bridges, though the bridges will remain open for entry.

Israeli Arab leaders, meanwhile, assured the government that Land Day will be marked peace-fully as long as Israeli police do not enter Arab towns and villages on the occasion.

The assurances were given as President Chaim Herzog, Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Police Minister Haim Barlev urged the Arab population not to resort to violence.

Shehade Shehade, an Arab priest who heads the National Committee for the Protection of the Land, organizers of Land Day observances, promised there would be no disturbances as long as the police stay away.

But in response to Herzog’s call, “Jewish guests” will be welcome in Arab villages to demonstrate Arab-Jewish coexistence, Shehade said.


Arab mayors and other public figures in Galilee, where most Israeli Arabs live, met with police officials this week, promising to do their utmost to avoid disorder. The officials reportedly agreed that as a general rule, police would refrain from entering the villages.

They warned, however, that if riots break out or roads are blocked, the “police will react accordingly.”

Six Arabs died in the violence that erupted on the original Land Day, March 30, 1976, when the Israel Defense Force expropriated Arab-owned lands in Galilee.

Since then, there has been a tacit understanding that the police would stay out of Arab population centers during the annual observance and the Arabs would refrain from disorderly conduct.

But this year’s Land Day, occurring in the midst of nearly four months of Arab rioting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has raised concern among Israeli officials that the peaceful protests of past years could turn nasty.


For the first time since 1976, the organizers have called for a one-day general strike to protest Israel’s handling of the Arab unrest in the territories. In addition to the strike, there will be four major rallies: two in Galilee, one in Taiba village, near the Israeli town of Kfar Sava, and one in the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev.

Fresh in the minds of Israelis are the general strike and demonstrations of solidarity by Israeli Arabs with their brethren in the territories last Dec. 21. They began peacefully, but degenerated into fierce rioting in Nazareth and in Umm el-Fahm village, in the heart of Israel.

Sources in the Rakah Communist Party, the main political faction behind Land Day, agreed that the protests Wednesday will be a test of whether Israeli Arab leaders can control the Arab population. Teams of supervisors will be present at potential trouble spots, ready to prevent any disorderly conduct from escalating to violence.

But the atmosphere is different in the administered territories, where Palestinians began a general strike and traffic strike Monday, two days in advance of Land Day. Only military vehicles and cars carrying journalists were seen on the roads.

Palestinian nationalist circles are agitating in Israel proper. Two residents of the Jalazoun refugee camp, near Ramallah, were arrested in Tel Aviv Monday after allegedly attacking an Arab employee of a local restaurant who refused to walk off his job. The two are suspected of beating the worker and trying to stab him.

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