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Israeli Arab Mayor ‘rescues’ West Bank Village Under Curfew

February 7, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The two trucks were parked back to back in front of an army roadblock on the outskirts of the West Bank town of Tulkarm. Between them, the plump mayor of the Israeli Arab village of Tira, Tarek Abdul Hai, sweated in the early morning sun as he helped transfer loaves of bread from one truck to the other.

It was only bread, but the seemingly routine act contained political dynamite. Mayor Abdul Hai, a member of the Hadash Communist Party, was demonstrating the solidarity of Israeli Arabs with their Palestinian brethren in the administered territories and giving his Marxist faction a public relations boost.

Tulkarm has been under strict curfew since Wednesday night, after fierce rioting in which one Arab was killed. The residents have not been allowed out of their homes since then. According to Abdul Hair, the mayor of Tulkarm called on him for help, because the city was running out of food.

The mayor of Tira drove a truck with 3,000 loaves of bread to Tulkarm. The military authorities refused to allow the truck to enter the city, because they feared it might trigger a demonstration. But they permitted a truck to be driven out of Tulkarm to pick up the bread.

A Hadash spokesman summoned the press and television to record the transfer. Abdul Hai insisted this was strictly a humanitarian act on his part. “If the neighboring Jewish town of Kfar Saba had no bread, we would have delivered them bread just as quickly,” he told reporters.

The bread reached the welfare office in Tulkarm just as the curfew was lifted for the first time to allow residents two hours to shop for food. In any event, it was not needed. Local bakeries had worked through the night and there was no visible shortage, no lines outside the bakeries.

Nor were there any incidents during the two-hour break in the curfew. When a border policeman announced by loudspeaker from a jeep that the break was over, the streets quickly emptied and the 20,000 residents returned behind closed doors for the fourth consecutive day.

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