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Palestinians Twiddle Radio Dials For News, Air Raid Warnings

February 2, 1991

IN THE OCCUPIED WEST BANK (AP) _ Like everywhere in the Middle East, radios in the West Bank are constantly tuned to news of the Persian Gulf War.

By day, the Palestinians listen to Iraqi or Jordanian stations, which tell them Iraq is steadfastly resisting the U.S.-led alliance.

As dusk falls, the dials turn to Israel radio, which broadcasts air raid sirens whenever Iraq lobs a missile at the Jewish state.

″When the crisis started everyone bought a new radio,″ said Hosni Nafah, a bank employee. ″We are listening all the time. We even sleep with the radio on.″

″We listen to Radio Monte Carlo, to Jordan, to Iraq, to the BBC, to Israel. This one lies about that one and that one lies about the other one. We don’t know what’s going on,″ he said.

An Iraqi Scud-type missile whooshed over Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, tracing a red streak through the rain and exploding with a harmless flash in an open field.

Israeli military censorship prohibited giving the location of the impact or other details that might permit Iraq to adjust the aim of its missiles.

It was the second time a missile fell short of Tel Aviv and landed in the West Bank, where 1 million Palestinians live.

The first rocket also caused no casualties, but the two incidents have tempered the Palestinians’ support for Iraq with a fear that they could become accidental victims of Iraq’s attacks.

″Of course we are afraid. Next time it could hit our village. Why not?″ said Khaldon, a truck driver who was waiting at an Israeli roadblock Friday while soldiers tramped through mud looking for the spot where the missile hit the night before.

″I go to Tel Aviv every day at 4 in the morning to pick up goods. Do you think my wife isn’t afraid? She tells me I should wait until daylight.″

At first, the war was a ray of hope for the Palestinians, who are frustrated by the political impasse that continues despite their 3-year-old uprising against Israel’s occupation.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein held out hope for change when he tried to link the Arab-Israeli conflict with Iraq’s conquest of Kuwait.

But expectations have faded that the Gulf War will bring any changes for the Palestinians.

″It’s been the same since 1948,″ the year Israel became independent and the Arabs and Israelis fought their first of five wars, said Nafah. ″All talk, but nobody does anything. Power can do whatever it wants.″

The army imposed a blanket curfew on the occupied territories on Jan. 17, the day the war started, to prevent Palestinians from causing disruptions in support of Saddam.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department raised concerns about the treatment of people in the occupied territories, saying curfews should be temporary and lifted promptly when the security situation permits.

″Unnecessary hardship should not be imposed on the inhabitants of the occupied territories,″ the department said in a statement. ″There should be adequate provision for access to medical care, to tend to their crops and livestock, and to replenish food and other necessary supplies at regular intervals.″

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