Palestinian Dies of Wounds, Strike in West Bank and Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Masked Palestinians armed with axes and knives roamed a West Bank town Sunday to enforce a strike called in protest of U.S. plans for preliminary Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Arab reports said.
Also Sunday, a Palestinian man died in a West Bank hospital Sunday, three days after he was hit in the head by a rubber bullet fired by Israeli soldiers, hospital reports said.
The strike closed shops and schools in the occupied West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem. The fundamentalist Islamic group Hamas, or ″Zeal,″ called it to protest Secretary of State James A. Baker III’s proposal for preliminary Israeli-Palestinian talks in Cairo.
A recent Hamas leaflet called the proposal ″an American-Zionist conspiracy.″
Arab reports said that in the West Bank city of Hebron, about 50 masked Palestinians armed with axes and knives stopped cars and slashed the tires of at least 10 vehicles that defied the strike call.
Disagreement over the Baker plan led to the collapse last week of Israel’s coalition government. President Chaim Herzog began consultations Sunday required by law before he chooses a leader to form a new government.
The right-wing prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, opposed U.S.-backed compromises to get the preliminary talks under way, while more liberal lawmakers supported the compromises. Shamir’s rival, Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, engineered a vote of no-confidence that passed and brought down the government.
Herzog was expected to give the mandate for forming a government to Peres.
The man who died Sunday was identified as Salim Yacoub Rihan, 50. Arab reports said he was shot Thursday night as he drove a horse-drawn cart through the Al Amari refugee camp in the West Bank.
A doctor at Ramallah Hospital said Rihan was hit in the head with a single rubber bullet ″fired at close range.″ The doctor asked not to be identified.
An army official confirmed that Israeli had fired rubber bullets in Al Amari on Thursday to disperse stone-throwers. The official, who cannot be identified by name under briefing rules, said the army was checking further into the incident.
Rubber bullets are generally not lethal, although they can cause death if fired at close range and if they penetrate the head, chest or abdomen.
Rihan’s death raised to 664 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers or civilians since the uprising against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip began in December 1987. Forty-three Israelis have died.
An additional 198 Palestinians have been killed by fellow Arabs.
In the Gaza Strip on Sunday, an 18-year-old Palestinian was in critical condition after he was hit in the head by a plastic bullet in a stone-throwing confrontation with soldiers in Gaza City, Arab hospital officials said.