Government Outlaws Palestinian Committees, 270 Treated For Beatings
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel banned local committees that carry out leadership orders in the Palestinian uprising, and reports Thursday said soldiers beat more than 250 Arabs during four days of unrest in the occupied Gaza Strip.
Palestinians began a two-day general strike in the West Bank to protest Israel’s policy of deporting those it considers activists in the 8-month-old rebellion. Masked youths passed word of the strike, some shouting through loudspeakers.
A three-day curfew was lifted from much of the Gaza Strip before dawn Thursday, but 180,000 Arabs in 11 refugee camps and neighborhoods still were confined. About 85,000 West Bank Palestinians from nine villages and camps were under curfew.
Israel radio said soldiers wounded six Palestinians in the occupied West Bank - four in the Amari refugee camp and two teen-agers in Tamun village. Hospital officials said five Palestinians were wounded in Gaza’s camps, including a 14-year-old boy.
Army spokesmen confirmed the Tamun shootings and said the Palestinians attacked an army patrol with knives.
An Amnesty International report said soldiers had beaten thousands of Palestinians in the past eight months. The Foreign Ministry said it was checking the allegations, but claimed that the London-based human rights group consulted biased sources.
At least 247 Palestinians have been killed since the rebellion began last Dec. 8 among the 1.5 million Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel captured from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 Middle East war. Four Israelis have died.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said outlawing the committees would create legal means of ″dealing with the activists″ of the uprising.
The Defense Ministry said every Palestinian who serves on or assists the ″popular committees″ will be arrested and tried. Israel radio said punishment for conviction would be 10 years in prison.
Popular committees carry out directives of the uprising’s underground leadership, organizing demonstrations and patrols, and supplying food and medical aid to needy Palestinians.
The government accused the committees of organizing violence and of being connected to outlawed Palestinian guerrilla groups, including factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
″The committees have a double aim: to impose by violent means the orders of the PLO and the uprising’s leaders on the population and to undermine the Israeli authorities ... and to create alternative mechanisms instead,″ the Defense Ministry said.
The move followed deportation orders issued Wednesday against 25 Gaza Strip and West Bank Arabs, mostly members of the popular committees.
″Outlawing the committees would create legal means of dealing with their activists and, of course, their leaders,″ Rabin told Israel radio Thursday.
Rabin said 200 to 300 popular committees members were in jail without trial and estimated several hundreds more are still free.
Police arrested a 17-year-old Israeli suspected of setting the fire near Tel Aviv earlier this month that killed three Arab workers from Gaza, Israel army radio said. Violent Gaza riots last week were said to have been inflamed by news of the burning deaths. The unrest resulted in the three-day curfew.
Red Cross and hospital officials in Gaza said about 270 Palestinians were treated for beating injuries since the curfew began Sunday night, including 17 treated Thursday.
Of those, about 40 Arabs suffered fractured bones and most of the rest suffered bruises and contusions, said an official at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, where most of the injured were treated. The official said most of the injuries came during overnight house-to-house searches.
Israeli military officials said they did not keep exact figures, but estimated the number of beating victims in the last four days at about 135.
″Most were curfew violators who suffered only light injuries,″ one official said. ″The beatings were a result of a tremendous effort we made not to endanger lives.″
The hospital, Red Cross and military officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
One victim, Fathi Jamil, 40, said from his hospital bed at Shifa that soldiers chasing Palestinian protesters in Jabaliya refugee camp beat him up inside his home Wednesday. He showed a reporter bruises the size of oranges on his right arm and left leg and two cigarette burns on his chest.
Another patient, Ahmed Mahmoud Salameh of Gaza City, said he was hit by rubber bullets after soldiers entered his home and dragged out his 15-year-old son. Salameh, 47, said he ran outdoors to stop the troops. His right eye was bandaged, and hospital officials said he lost it when he was struck by a rubber bullet.
The Arabic-language daily Al Quds quoted sources as saying the PLO was preparing to recognize Israel and would announce a government-in-exile headed by Mahmoud Abbas, a top aide to PLO chief Yasser Arafat. Abbas headed a delegation that visited Jordan last week.
This month, Israeli officials seized a Palestinian ″declaration of independence″ from an east Jerusalem office that called for an independent Palestinian state.