Settlers Raid Palestinian Village, Shoot Three Residents
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Jewish settlers shot up a West Bank village Friday in the second vigilante raid in two days, wounding at least three people and damaging houses and cars, residents and Israel radio said.
The radio reported another raid Friday evening, but gave no details.
Fifteen armed settlers conducted a patrol Friday in Hebron, where the first vigilante raid occurred the night before, breaking into several houses. Five paratroopers who escorted them did not interfere, but fired into the air with the settlers when Palestinians threw stones.
A Labor Party minister in the coalition government claimed the vigilantism among the 70,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip was intended to block Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s plan for Palestinian elections.
A dissident Cabinet minister from Shamir’s conservative Likud bloc announced opposition to the proposal, and Trade Minister Ariel Sharon, the leading Likud opponent, toured the West Bank to show support for the settlers.
Shamir, returning from a trip abroad, would not answer questions about settler raids and said only: ″I don’t think we are facing a very serious situation. If it’s necessary to do something, we shall do it.″
Soldiers dispersed a march by about 500 Arabs in the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem with gunfire, wounding seven people.
The protesters, most wearing masks, raised outlawed Palestinian flags and shouted slogans through portable loudspeakers. The march commemorated three Palestinians killed by soldiers last month.
Arab hospital officials in east Jerusalem and Bethlehem said a 15-year-old girl was hospitalized with a stomach wound, another young woman had leg wounds and five people were treated and released.
Residents of Arura, a village of 1,400 Palestinians about 20 miles north of Jerusalem, said 20 to 40 settlers invaded it from surrounding hills at 9 a.m. Mahmoud Salah, a teacher, told The Associated Press they started shooting at houses and people in the streets.
″We are sure they were settlers,″ he said. ″They were dressed in civilian clothes and did not act like security agents, because they fired indiscriminately.″
He said men, women and children rushed out and began pelted the attackers with stones. Salah said the settlers left after three hours.
The daughter of village leader Yusef Mahmoud, who would not give her first name, said the invaders smashed two cars and punctured the windows of five houses with bullets.
Villagers said five people were wounded, but Israel radio and officials at nearby Ramallah Hospital reported only three casualties, including 19-year-old Suleiman Abu Kandil with a serious stomach wound.
Mahmound, the village leader, said soldiers arrived soon after the settlers left, in turn clashing with stone-throwing Palestinians. He said one man was detained.
″We did not see Jewish settlers there but the residents claim settlers attacked them,″ an army spokesman said. ″We are checking it.″
Israel radio said settlers from Oranim and Shaarei Tikva in the West Bank raided nearby Arab villages Friday evening, saying they wanted to avenge a firebomb attack on an Israeli car. The radio said there were no casualties.
On Thursday night, hundreds of settlers from Kiryat Arba in the West Bank fired into Arab homes on the outskirts of neighboring Hebron. Palestinians said there were no casualties but windows of at least six houses were smashed.
Aharon Domb of the Hebron Information Center run by the settlers said the raid was a response to firebomb attacks on two Israeli-owned cars Thursday, which caused no injuries.
″Since the politicians are not applying the law ... Kiryat Arba residents were forced to respond to the Arab rioters,″ he said on Israel radio. ″They did this, in part, by firing straight into buildings.″
Health Minister Yaacov Tsur of Labor blamed the rise in settler violence on ″the settlement leaders’ clear desire to torpedo the peace move, the chance to reach elections and a dialogue with Palestinians.″
Under Shamir’s plan, backed by Labor and approved earlier this month by a Cabinet vote of 20-6, autonomy for 1.7 million Palestinians in the occupied lands would be negotiated with representatives arrested by them.
Palestinians criticize the plan for not committing Israel to withdraw from the territories, where an uprising began nearly 18 months ago. At least 498 Palestinains have been killed and 22 Israelis also have been slain.
Right-wing politicians and settlers see the Shamir proposal as a step toward a Palestinian state, which they consider a threat to Israel’s existence.
Rebels in the conservative bloc have demanded a meeting of the 2,600-member Likud central committee to defeat or amend the plan, and have the support of the three most powerful figures after the prime minister: Sharon, Housing Minister David Levy and Economy Minister Yitzhak Modai.
Levy announced in newspaper interviews Friday he would voter against the plan at the party meeting, tentatively set for next month.
Sharon insists the uprising end before any elections are held.