Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Some 250 Students from the West Bank Hospitalized; Terrorists Suspected of Mass Poisonings

March 29, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

About 250 students from Arab girls’ schools on the West Bank remained hospitalized today from the effects of a poison gas or other substance introduced into their classrooms by unknown persons. None of the youngsters was reported in serious condition. The Health Ministry and army chemists are analyzing the substance but have not yet determined its nature or source.

The mass poisonings occurred in Jenin and nearby Arab towns in the northern Samaria district. According to Palestinian sources, the students began to fall ill a week ago, complaining of headaches, dizziness, stomach pains and other symptoms. A number of adults, including several Israeli soldiers, were also reported to have been affected.

Maj. Amit Sayyad, head of the Israeli civil administration in Jenin charged on a television interview that “enemy elements,” meaning apparently Palestinian terrorists, were responsible. He claimed their motive was to incite the local populace against Israel or to punish students who did not participate in anti-Israel demonstrations.


But an army spokesman said yesterday that there was still no proof that the poisoning was the result of a deliberate act. The mayors of Jenin and the nearby town of Arabe sent letters to United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar and to the Israeli Health and Defense ministers urging an investigation. Some local Arabs accused Israeli settlers of trying to poison the children.

Voice of Israel Radio reported today that 10 students at a Jenin boys’ school were beaten by masked men after they refused to leave their classes to demonstrate. According to the report, the masked men also appeared at a school in Arabe but fled when security forces arrived.


Meanwhile, rock-throwing incidents continued to escalate on the West Bank. Two Israeli police officials were caught in separate melees but were unhurt, Gabi Eshton, Superintendent of Police for the Samaria district, was surrounded in Burka village by Arab youths who burned tires and stoned his car. He fired a weapon into the air and escaped. The Israeli police chief in Nablus was also the target of stone-throwers as he drove through the city. His car was badly damaged.

Recommended from JTA