Peres Warns Settlers Against Vigilante Actions
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Hundreds of Jewish settlers blocked main roads in the occupied West Bank for two hours Sunday to protest Palestinian attacks on Israeli motorists, and Prime Minister Shimon Peres warned the settlers against vigilante actions.
Tension has increased recently in the West Bank, where about 800,000 Palestinians and 30,000 Jews live. Palestinians have begun throwing firebombs and firing bullets at Israeli motorists. In the past, they had used stones.
For the first time in two years, a Palestinian road ambush resulted in the death of an Israeli civilian last week.
No one was reported hurt in Sunday’s demonstration.
Peres, addressing the weekly Cabinet session, warned settlers against taking the law into their own hands.
″The government and its institutions are the sole executors of the law and no other element shall take the law into its own hand,″ Cabinet Secretary Yossi Beilin quoted Peres as saying.
″There can be no compromise on the security of Jews and Arabs in the territories, while at the same time, innocent Jews and Arabs must not be harmed,″ he quoted Peres as saying.
A Cabinet communique said the ″policy of the government is leniency towards civilians and a firm hand towards terrorists.″
The recent West Bank assaults are viewed as part of an organized effort by Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization to win back some of its diminished support in the occupied areas.
Arafat’s influence was eroded after Israel’s June 1982 invasion of Lebanon routed his Palestinian guerrillas from south Lebanon and Beirut. Also, Syria openly backed rebels within his movement, known as Fatah, and said Arafat no longer represented the Palestinian people.
In a protest against what they consider laxity in security on the West Bank, about 300 Israeli settlers choked off the main arteries to Jerusalem from the Palestinian cities of Nablus in the north and Hebron in the south.
″People are sick of this terrible feeling that every time you head home you’re liable to have something come flying at you,″ said Avner Fuchsman from the Efrat settlement 10 miles southwest of Jerusalem.
During the demonstration Sunday near the city of Nablus, two settlers fired guns into the air to disperse Palestinians who threw stones at them from Anabta village.
The settlers took one Arab youth into their custody, a military source said, adding he presumed the youth would be turned over to police.
Attacks in the past by Palestinian stone-throwers rarely caused injury. But after weeks of relative quiet, the military last week reported 11 attacks in 10 days, about half of them involving firebombs, gunfire and a hand grenade.
David Pinchas, 44, from the town of Kfar Saba near Tel Aviv, died of third degree burns Thursday following a firebombing a week earlier near the West Bank town of Qalqiliya.
On Wednesday night, gunmen wounded two Israeli bus passengers in an ambush near Bethlehem.
Israel’s army, under pressure to halt the escalating violence, rounded up more than 20 Palestinians on Friday in the Dheishe refugee camp, a major trouble spot near Bethlehem.On Sunday, about 50 women from the camp demonstrated in the road against the arrests, accusing authorities of detaining Palestinians to appease the settlers.