Palestinians Call for End to Army Travel Ban; Four Dead
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Islamic fundamentalists and Palestinians barred from going to their jobs in Israel clashed with Israeli troops Friday as security forces kept the entire occupied Gaza Strip sealed off.
Four Palestinians reportedly died in the West Bank and Gaza, including one in army gunfire Friday and two wounded in earlier clashes with soldiers. The fourth man, suspected of collaborating with Israel, was killed by fellow Arabs. Also Friday, a Palestinian human rights group urged Israel to lift its order barring Arabs from leaving the Gaza Strip, saying such restrictions amount to a collective punishment.
The army imposed the order late Thursday for an indefinite period to ″reduce friction between residents of Gaza and Israel.″
The human rights group, Al Haq-Law in the Service of Man, called the travel ban unjustified, saying it was ″a clear violation of international law.″
The order was in response to Tuesday’s stabbing attack in the Jaffa section of Tel Aviv by a Palestinian from Gaza. Two Israelis were killed and 20 wounded.
The ban affects more than 50,000 Palestinians from the coastal strip who work in Israel, along with thousands who pray in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, now in its third week.
An army spokesman, who cannot be identified under military rules, denied the ban was intended as punishment.
But in Gaza City, Palestinian workers who could not get to Israel joined Islamic fundamentalists to protest the order, Arab reports said.
The Hamas organization had called for a march to commemorate the Prophet Mohammed’s first battle victory. The army said soldiers opened fire with plastic bullets, slightly wounding five Palestinians, after demonstrators threw stones at troops.
One Gazan, Fayek Ahmad, 24, said he feared losing his job at an Israeli cardboard factory if he missed work. He was unable to find a taxi to take him out of Gaza.
″This is the price we have to pay for another’s crime,″ Ahmad said. He said he could not find work in Gaza, where unemployment is estimated at more than 35 percent.
A blacksmith, who gave his name only as Khalil, said he needed to get to his job inside Israel to support his family.
″It is unfair to ask my five children to starve,″ he said.
But Reuven Hazak, former head of the Shin Bet secret police, told Israel radio that closing the border with Gaza was long overdue.
He said that to stop Arab attacks on Israelis, ″you have to stop these two communities from getting together.″
Friday’s deaths raised to 901 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers or civilians in the four-year Palestinian uprising. At least 535 others have been slain by fellow Arabs, most as suspected collaborators, and 87 Israelis have died.
In the West Bank town of Ramallah, soldiers fatally shot Hosni Abdul Raoef Ayad, 19, after a firebomb was thrown at their jeep, the army said.
The men who died of earlier wounds were identified as Mohammed Abu Jeldeh, 22, of the West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp, and Raed Barahm, 21, of Kufr Kaddoum, also in the West Bank. Both were shot by soldiers earlier this week.
The body of Ali Abu Hilal, 40, was found Friday in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza. Palestinian reports said the suspected collaborator was kidnapped from his home by Arab activists and beaten to death.