Jewish Settlers Demand Expulsion of Freed Palestinian
DEIR AL HATAB, Occupied West Bank (AP) _ Jewish settlers, some carrying guns, entered a Palestinian village Tuesday and demanded the eviction of a man convicted of murder who was freed in last week’s prisoner exchange.
During a 20-minute meeting with about 16 settlers crowded into his sitting room, the village chief said he would not ask the Palestinian, Samir Salah Yussef Hussein, to leave.
″I am not the military government, and I can’t force him to go,″ said Salhaman Mustafa Abdel Karin. ″He was released to live freely, and he can live peacefully here.″
Hussein, sentenced to 25 years in prison in 1980 for killing another Palestinian suspected of collaborating with the Israelis, was one of 1,150 prisoners exchanged May 20 for three Israeli soldiers captured by Palestinian guerrillas in Lebanon.
Of those, 605 Palestinians convicted of crimes ranging from gun-running to murder were released in the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River and Gaza Strip. Others were freed at the Syrian border and 394 were flown to Geneva and then to Libya.
Karin told the settlers that Hussein, 26, was not at his home in Deir al Hatab, a village with about 550 Palestinians 32 miles north of Jerusalem.
The Jews, most of them from the nearby Elon Moreh settlement, went to Hussein’s shuttered house and spoke briefly with his brother, telling him they wanted to see Hussein.
A crowd of villagers gathered in the narrow street to watch.
″They have no right to come here, because Samir lives here with his family, and this is his land,″ said one villager, 21-year-old Nidal Zamel.
Jewish settlers over the weekend distributed posters around the West Bank city of Nablus warning 85 freed Palestinians who returned to their homes there to get out.
Zev Saffer, a founding member of Elon Moreh, said the meeting with Karin was one in a series of moves that would be taken to protect Jewish settlers.
He said Jews from 10 settlements would begin night-time patrols in Nablus, where 80,000 Palestinians live.
″Our people will be armed and carrying walkie-talkies,″ Saffer said. ″If they run into any trouble, they will be able to summon help immediately. We consider this to be similar to the civil defense in Israel.″
Israeli officials have said they will not tolerate vigilante action by the settlers.
But one settler, Avner Uzan, told The Associated Press that the settlers already were patrolling some smaller Palestinian villages at night and occasionally breaking house windows ″to let them know we were there.″
The lopsided prisoner exchange, and the return of many of the Palestinians to Israeli-held territory, has been sharply criticized by some Israelis.
And the military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Levy, again condemned eight Israeli soldiers who were freed in two of several exchanges, saying they should have fought and risked death rather than surrender to Palestinian guerrillas.
The eight soldiers, including two freed last week, were captured in Lebanon in September 1982. News reports at the time said they were relaxing under a tree and were captured by two Palestinians without a shot being fired. They were near the front line of the Israeli force that invaded Lebanon in June 1982. The six others were released in an exchange in November 1983.
Levy said the eight soldiers ″made no attempt to resist, to prevent their surrender and imprisonment, and I condemn this behavior in the sharpest possible language.″
But he also said in an interview on Israel Army Radio that they would not be court-martialed for their ″shameful and unsoldierly conduct.″
Israel television said Tuesday that one of the soldiers freed in the 1983 exchange, Avi Kronenfeld, has asked for a trial to allow him to defend his actions.