27th Palestinian Dies; Gaza a 'War Zone'

From Times Wire Services

Israeli soldiers killed one Palestinian and wounded as many as a dozen in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, a month after anti-Israel demonstrations exploded in the worst violence to hit the occupied territories in years, the army and U.N. sources said.

The troops repelled widespread demonstrations in the Gaza Strip with rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition, firing at the legs of the protesters who hurled stones and bottles at soldiers, an army spokesman said.

It was "like a war zone," with violence much worse than previous days, a U.N. source said.

Israel radio reported that Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin ordered more troops into the Gaza Strip following Saturday's violence.

According to newspaper reports, the army has already tripled its deployment in the occupied territories since the disturbances broke out last month.

Most Gaza residents observed a stay-at-home strike Saturday called by a fundamentalist Islamic group.

Nasser Hospital in Gaza City reportedly was unable to handle the number of wounded being brought in, U.N. sources said. As many as a dozen people were reported wounded, two critically, they said. The army put the number of wounded at five.

Death Toll Reaches 27

Saturday's fatality brought to 27 the number of Palestinians who have been killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers since the protests began Dec. 9 in the Gaza Strip, which was seized by Israel from Egypt in the Six-Day War in 1967.

Protesters erected barricades of burning tires, threw stones and raised the outlawed Palestinian flag, the Israeli military said.

In the village of Bani Suheila near the Egyptian border, soldiers fired into the air and then at the legs of protesters, killing one man, identified as Bassam Khader Mussallam, 20, and wounding another, a military spokesman said.

In Gaza City, a loudspeaker at a mosque urged residents to fight Israeli troops with "knives, stones and all other means."

Called by Islamic Jihad

Most of the 650,000 Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip strictly observed the one-day strike called by Islamic Jihad (Islamic Holy War), which threatened attacks on drivers and businesses that did not join in.

"Every car that passes will be burned and destroyed and every store that opens will be burned and destroyed," said the fundamentalist organization's pamphlet distributed Friday.

Meanwhile, the military clamped curfews on the Khan Yunis, Nuseirat and Bureij camps, and scattered incidents of stone-throwing erupted in the West Bank towns of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus.

Several journalists said the army refused to allow them past the Erez checkpoint, the main entrance to the 25-mile-long Gaza Strip, but the Israeli military denied the coastal zone was closed.

The U.N. sources said the Israeli civil administration, which governs the Palestinians living in Gaza, asked the U.N. Relief and Works Agency to help provide medical teams and ambulances for those wounded in the clashes.

Israeli officials have detained nearly 2,000 Palestinians in an unsuccessful effort to quell the unrest.

Former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon on Saturday called on the government to establish a Cabinet committee to plan legislation for overseeing the refugee camps.

"The problem is far too complicated to be handled by deportation or some other single action," Sharon said on Israeli army radio.

U.N. Under Secretary General Marrack Goulding, who arrived Friday on a fact-finding mission, said Saturday that he would meet today with U.N. relief officials and with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres during the week.

The U.N. Security Council has "deplored" Israel's handling of the monthlong unrest and approved a measure calling on the Israeli government to refrain from deporting nine Palestinians accused of inciting violence.

Also Saturday, Israeli authorities detained Palestinian editor Hanna Siniora to question him about his call for a boycott of Israeli-made products, police said.

Siniora, editor of the pro-PLO Arabic-language daily Al Fajr, said he was questioned for 2 1/2 hours before being released on bond.

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