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Punishing Bombardment of Iraq Comes As Blow to Palestinians

January 18, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Palestinian population in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip was in a state of profound shock and deep dejection Thursday after suffering two major blows this week.

First the Palestinians were reeling over the slayings Monday of two top-ranking Palestine Liberation Organization leaders and an aide. The men — Salah Khalaf, known as Abu Iyad; and Hail Abdul Hamid, called Abu Hol — were buried Thursday in Tunis.

Also slain was Fakhri, al-Omari, an aide to Khalaf.

The burials of the men, originally intended to have been held in Amman, were changed to Tunis because of “Operation Desert Storm” and the state of alert in Jordan.

PLO officials have tried to link the gunman to Israel.

The Palestinians, stalwart supporters of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, were reeling, too, over what seemed the apparent decimation of Iraqi military power by the U.S.-led air attacks Thursday in the initial phase of the Middle East war.

The Israeli authorities kept most of the territories under tight curfew to prevent trouble, issuing very strong admonitions not to break the curfew. It is expected to last at least until Sunday or as long as the situation in the region remains unclear.

A curfew was clamped on the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem after disturbances erupted over news of the U.S. air raids on Iraq.

The Jerusalem police said initially they would allow Moslem worshippers to attend Friday prayer services in the mosques on the Temple Mount. The decision was in line with efforts to restore a degree of normalcy to the Palestinian population.

But by the end of the day, that appeared unlikely.


Also trying was the struggle by the Palestinians to be issued gas masks, just as the Jewish settlers in the territories had. The local media published elaborate instructions on how to behave in case of a poison gas attack, bringing home the immediacy of the expected attack by Iraq.

The Palestinians, many of whom had originally not wanted to be issued the protective gear, now lamented Israel’s failure to issue them.

It was only at the last minute that the Israel Defense Force issued the protective masks to Palestinians, acting on orders from the High Court of Justice, which called it a “scandal” that Jewish settlers in the territories, but not Arabs, had been issued masks.

Some Palestinian leaders, such as Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, maintained Thursday that the initial setback suffered by Iraq could not change the fact that Palestinians had to support Saddam Hussein “as their only ray of light.”

He said the Palestinians did not delude themselves that Iraq could withstand a coalition offensive. However, they had no choice but to side with Iraq, Nusseibeh said.

He predicted that after the crisis, the United States would try to exert pressure on Israel to reach a settlement with the Palestinians. “But such a settlement would not satisfy the Palestinian minimum,” he said.

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