Changing face of Arab unrest. As Palestinian uprising enters fourth month, violence spreads to all sectors of society
The Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is taking on new forms as the revolt enters its fourth month today. The violence of the protests is now turning inward, claiming Palestinian victims suspected of cooperating with Israel; it is escalating to armed attacks by rioters on Israeli troops; and it is involving broader sections of the Palestinian and Israeli populations.
As sporadic unrest erupted Tuesday, a Palestinian serving in the Israeli police was found murdered near the West Bank town of Jericho.
The incident highlights what could be a significant new course charted by activists guiding the protests. In recent weeks, they have made concerted efforts to transform the uprising from an outburst of scattered rioting into a broader-based movement of noncooperation with Israeli authorities, including the resignation of Palestinians employed by the military government and serving in the police or on Israeli-appointed city councils.
Leaflets circulated by nationalist groups have called on Palestinian civil servants to step down and have threatened them. Palestinians suspected of working for Israeli intelligence have also been warned, and one was lynched last month by a mob in the West Bank.
The appeals and intimidation, aimed at cutting contact with the military government, appear to have produced results. In the Gaza Strip, the entire Palestinian staff of the military administration's tax department announced that it was stepping down. No actual resignation letters have been received, however, Israeli officials say.
Three city councilmen in the West Bank have resigned their posts, and several Palestinians suspected of working for Israeli intelligence have reportedly returned their Israeli-issued guns and sworn allegiance to the uprising.
Despite these developments, top Israeli defense officials insist that the military administration is functioning smoothly. They say Palestinian civil servants are coming to work and ignoring nationalist appeals that they know will only lead to a collapse of services, which in the end would hurt the Palestinian population the most.
From stones to firearms?
At the same time, the violence of the Palestinian rioting is escalating. On Monday, a hand grenade was thrown by rioters who confronted Israeli troops as they arrived in a West Bank village to arrest suspected activists. Soldiers at the scene said they also detected flashes of gunfire. A day earlier, troops battling a crowd of rock-throwing youths at a refugee camp said they heard shots fired.
Israeli Army officers are concerned at the prospect that guns will be used along with rocks by rioters in the occupied territories. Until now Palestinian youths have fought Israeli soldiers with stones, slingshots, and Molotov cocktails.
Though Palestinian activists are known to have a small supply of weapons, they have not used them during the uprising in an effort to maintain the image of an unarmed civilian population rising up against a well- equipped military force.
This image was tarnished by Monday's hijacking of an Israeli bus by guerrillas from the mainstream Fatah section of the Palestine Liberation Organization. At least one of the three Israelis who died was killed by the hijackers, who were themselves killed by Israeli soldiers who stormed the bus. Analysts say the attack cost the Palestinians the moral advantage in world opinion which they had gained.
``Just as people were developing a sympathy for the Palestinians, the historical image of the Israelis as victims has reemerged,'' a Western diplomat says. ``It has turned Israel into the aggrieved party.''
One Palestinian called the attack ``self-defeating'' and ``badly timed.''
``The local people here are against the use of firearms. It is very clear that firearms would change the rules of the game and detract from the positive advantage of the uprising.''
Wider sections of population involved
Analysts say the Palestinian uprising is rapidly taking on the contours of the intercommunal Jewish-Arab conflict in Palestine under British mandate rule that preceded the establishment of Israel in 1948.
Today, as then, the conflict is involving whole populations, no longer just youths from both sides. An increasing number of Israeli Army reservists, middle-aged men with families, are serving in the territories and facing protesters who now include girls, women, children, and older men.
Many of the battles, as in the pre-1948 era, are centered on keeping open the roads that link Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. The Palestinians block the roads; the Army moves in to clear them.
There is also a return to mutual vandalization of property and face-to-face personal violence.
Arab villagers have complained that Jewish settlers have cut down and burned their trees. Israeli settlements have charged that Arabs have done the same to their orchards and killed chickens in their coops. Soldiers have smashed windows and furniture in Arab homes, and settlers have vandalized Arab cars in response to the hurling of rocks through the windows of their vehicles.
Palestinian assailants have stabbed soldiers and settlers, and settlers have opened fire in response to Palestinian rock throwing, often with fatal results.
[Meanwhile, in Jerusalem Tuesday, a spokesman said Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir would present his own Middle East peace plan during his visit to Washington next week. The plan aims to counter a United States initiative brought to the region by US Secretary of State George Shultz. The US plan envisages a Mideast peace conference, an interim period of limited Palestinian self-rule, and negotiations on a final settlement.
Mr. Shamir, who opposes withdrawal from the occupied lands, will seek ``clarifications'' on the US plan.]
Tracing the three months of turmoil
Dec. 9 - Riots sweep Gaza Strip after rumors that a traffic accident in which four Arabs died was a deliberate act of revenge by the driver of an Israeli Army truck.
Dec. 21 - Israeli Arabs strike in support of rioting Palestinians.
Dec. 22 - The UN Security Council passes a resolution, with the US abstaining, deploring Israeli riot-control methods.
Dec. 28 - US asks Israel not to deport any Palestinians convicted of rioting.
Jan. 5 - UN Security Council unanimously calls on Israel to halt plans to deport nine Palestinians.
Jan. 7 - Palestinians call for nonviolent civil disobedience campaign. Number of Palestinians killed since unrest began reaches 25.
Jan. 13 - Four Palestinians deported.
Jan. 14 - US abstains on UN vote calling for return of deported Palestinians.
Jan. 20 - Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin orders Israeli troops to beat rioters instead of shooting them.
February - Two Israeli soldiers are arrested in connection with the alleged live burial of four Palestinians (later rescued).
Feb. 10 - PLO announces plans for a ``Ship of Return'' to bring hundreds of deported Palestinians back to Israel.
Feb. 15 - PLO ship is sabotaged by mine blast. Voyage postponed indefinitely.
Feb. 25 - US Secretary of State George Shultz arrives for talks on peace plan with leaders of Israel, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.
Feb. 26 - CBS News film shows Israeli soldiers beating bound Palestinians.
Mar. 3 - Shultz returns to Mideast for second round of talks.
Mar. 7 - Arab guerrillas hijack a bus; three Israelis and the three Arabs die. PLO takes responsibility for hijacking.
Mar. 8 - Suspected Palestinian collaborator found dead; another Palestinian dies in unrest. Toll: 85 at least.