Israeli Arabs Strike, Three Killed, 30 Wounded in Territories
DEIR AL HANNA, Israel (AP) _ Israel’s Arabs staged a general strike and rallies Thursday in support of the uprising in the occupied territories, where three Palestinians were reported killed during ″Land Day″ protests.
Arab reports said 31 Palestinians were wounded in the occupied West Bank, while the army put the figure at 24.
Despite heavy security and a curfew that confined all 650,000 residents of the Gaza Strip to their homes, violent clashes erupted in towns and refugee camps throughout the territories to mark the 13th anniversary of a bloody clash over Israeli confiscation of Arab land.
The army sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip, barring Palestinians from entering Israel and posted thousands of troops in the occupied lands.
Rallies in northern Israel by thousands of Israeli Arabs in support of the Palestinian revolt generally went off peacefully, but police arrested 20 Arabs for possessing pro-uprising leaflets believed to incite violence.
Arab Affairs Minister Ehud Olmert praised Israeli Arabs for refraining from violence. ″No doubt there’s a large measure of responsibility here. They restrained themselves,″ he said on Israel’s Arabic television broadcast.
Israeli Arabs number about one-fifth of Israel’s 4.2 million population and their involvement in demonstrations prompted fears the uprising could spread to Israel itself.
″Land Day″ marks the March 30, 1976, deaths of six Arabs in an incident at Deir Al Hanna triggered by confiscation of Arab land for an army firing range.
In the West Bank village of Shweike, troops shot and killed a 20-year-old Palestinian carrying a large stone as he was about to ambush an army officer in a narrow alleyway, a military spokesman said.
Palestinian residents identified the dead man as Akram Saif Al Din Khowayled. They said a 20-year-old was seriously wounded in the stomach.
A military spokesman said a Palestinian from the village of Al Jib near Ramallah also died and the army was investigating. Arab doctors identified him as Mohammed Mansour Abed Rabo, 22, and said he was shot in the chest.
Arab doctors in the occupied Gaza Strip said Nasr Khaled Nasr, 24, was killed by a plastic bullet to the heart during a clash with stone-throwing youths in the Jabaliya refugee camp.
The army said it was checking the report and added that 24 Palestinians were wounded in the West Bank.
The deaths brought to 415 the number of Palestinians killed in the 15- month-old revolt against Israeli occupation. Eighteen Israelis have also died.
Arab reporters said 17 Palestinians were wounded in the Hebron area, including two allegedly shot by Jewish settlers near Alia hospital.
In the West Bank village of Yatta near Hebron, residents said Arab guards of Mayor Ismail Ihmid opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators who hurled stones and firebombs at city hall for staying open in defiance of the strike.
An army spokesman confirmed the incident, saying guards opened fire because the protesters tried to set fire to city hall. He said three Palestinians were wounded in the attack.
Arab doctors said 11 Palestinians were wounded in clashes in Arab east Jerusalem, as well as in villages and refugee camps near Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarem and Nablus.
Among the wounded was a 27-year-old man from a village near Bethlehem in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head.
The clashes in Tulkarem erupted when 40 masked men in shirts emblazoned with the Palestinian flag marched through streets waving the outlawed banner, the Arab reports said.
In the Dheishe refugee camp near Bethlehem, about 200 Palestinian youths, most with their faces masked, set tires afire and hurled stones in two hours of hit-and-run skirmishes with soldiers on the highway.
Arab doctors in the occupied Gaza Strip said a 36-year-old man from the Shati refugee camp was shot in the leg.
Arab reporters in the Gaza Strip said four houses were demolished in Gaza City and Abassan and a room of a fifth Gaza City home was destroyed. Residents said the homes belonged to Palestinian activists accused of throwing firebombs at the home of Arabs who cooperated with Israel.
In Deir Al Hanna in northern Israel, about 10,000 Arabs filled the town square in support of the Palestinian revolt and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied areas.
Some demonstrators waved olive branches and raised banners in the colors of the Palestinian flag and chanted: ″Long live the united PLO 3/8 Yes to a Palestinian state 3/8″
Police kept a low profile and Arab activists with white arm bands emblazoned with ″Security″ in red maintained order.