Israel, defying repeated appeals from the United States and a resolution of the U.N. Security Council, on Wednesday expelled four Palestinians accused of masterminding demonstrations against Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The four Palestinians were flown in an army helicopter from a prison at Nablus to Israel's self-proclaimed security zone inside Lebanon. From there, they were taken by truck to a village north of Hasbaya, where, Israel Radio said, they were released to an unidentified "group of waiting men." It said the four men offered no resistance.
Once inside Lebanon, the four Palestinians were briefly handed over to Syrian forces in the Bekaa Valley. However, wire services, citing eyewitnesses, said the four men were later handed over to the Lebanese army and were spending the night at a Lebanese army camp near the Israeli border.
It was not immediately known where the four men will go next. Syria, like Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan, had announced that it would not accept any Palestinians deported by Israel.
The Israeli action drew immediate protests from abroad. The International Committee of the Red Cross, in a statement issued in Geneva, called Israel's action "a grave violation" of the 1949 Geneva Convention on treatment of civilians in a war zone and said that "the forcible transfer of groups or individuals from the occupied territories is forbidden by international humanitarian law."
The response from the United States was more muted. In Washington, State Department spokesman Charles Redman said of the expulsions, "That's an action we deeply regret." He said Washington will continue to discuss such expulsions with Israel, but he offered no further comment.
That was interpreted as a sign that the Reagan Administration, which had repeatedly argued that the deportations were illegal and would incite further unrest, does not wish to further antagonize Israel.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said: "We oppose the process of deportations and we believe these means will increase tension."
U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar expressed "deep regret" at the move, and the Security Council scheduled a public debate on the issue for today. On Jan. 5, the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on Israel to "refrain" from exiling Palestinians living in the occupied territories.
Israeli defended its right to expel the four. An army spokesman said those expelled were West Bank Palestinians and "among the leaders of the instigators and organizers of the disturbances."
Meanwhile, Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators in at least four places in the occupied territories, killing two people, including a 10-year-old boy, and wounding three others as army reinforcements and tightened security measures failed to curb the unrest.
And a meeting of senior Israeli government ministers, called to explore means of restoring order, reportedly degenerated into a shouting match between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of the centrist Labor Alignment and Minister of Industry and Commerce Ariel Sharon of the rightist Likud Bloc.
According to Israel Radio, Peres accused Sharon of provoking Palestinians by moving ostentatiously last month into an apartment in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's walled Old City. Sharon, the broadcast said, shot back that he had acted to prevent Peres from ceding East Jerusalem to Jordan. It said the two men called each other a liar.
The tension reflects the fact that the unprecedented wave of violence in the occupied territories, which began on Dec. 9, is more widespread and persistent than officials had thought.
The disturbances appeared to be subsiding in late December, when 11 days passed without any shooting deaths except for a man who died from wounds received earlier in the month. But then the government announced plans to expel nine Palestinians, and on the same day an Israeli paratrooper killed a woman near Jerusalem, apparently by accident.
The two Palestinians shot to death Wednesday brought to 13 the number killed by Israeli gunfire in the last 10 days and to 35 the total since the unrest began.
An army spokesman said that Hassan Mustafa Muali, 19, was killed in the village of Kafr Nama, about six miles northwest of Ramallah, on the West Bank, when an army unit on patrol was surrounded and attacked by a crowd throwing stones. The soldiers tried unsuccessfully to disperse the demonstrators with tear gas and rubber bullets, the spokesman said.
An unidentified boy of 13 was seriously wounded in the chest in a second West Bank shooting incident, the army said.
In the Gaza Strip, U.N. officials said a 10-year-old boy from Jabaliya was shot and killed. He was dead on arrival at a U.N. clinic. A second resident was wounded, the officials said.
An army spokesman confirmed that an officer had opened fire on demonstrators in Jabaliya late Wednesday afternoon. The spokesman said an investigation is still under way concerning the dead child, whose name was not made public.
Earlier, the spokesman said, a Palestinian was wounded in a demonstration at Beit Hanoun, near the northern boundary of the Gaza Strip. Two paramilitary Israeli border policemen were slightly wounded by knife-wielding youths in Khan Yunis.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, interviewed by Israeli Television on Wednesday night, said the unrest had snowballed and that no one, including the Palestine Liberation Organization, had anticipated the transformation of the conflict into widespread civil disturbances. He said the unrest had not been planned.
"It is an expression of some kind of desperation and frustration," Rabin said, "desperation first of all with the Arab world. For the first time, the residents of the territories are leading the Palestinian fight."
He pledged to maintain a policy of "wise firmness," and added: "No way will we let them dictate to us by violence. We will prove to them, with all the grief involved, that if this continues even for another two months, they won't achieve anything by violence."
Rabin said that "there will be a curfew everywhere there is rioting, because our first aim is to remove all violent demonstrations from the agenda."
The army has imposed a widespread curfew in the past few days, particularly at Gaza Strip refugee camps. At one point Wednesday, the residents of 13 of 28 West Bank and Gaza Strip refugee camps were restricted to their homes.
Israel Television reported Wednesday night that about 150,000 Palestinians were under virtual house arrest because of curfews.
The expulsions of the four Palestinians came so quickly that Lea Tsemel, the Israeli lawyer for the four, said that they were denied a last visit with their families and that "for the first time in history, the International Committee of the Red Cross was not notified."
"The authorities wanted to act as fast as possible for fear of reaction here and abroad," she charged. "They just threw them out."
The four had been entitled to appeal the deportation orders issued by military officials but withdrew their appeals earlier this week, saying they had been denied access to evidence they needed for their cases.
The four who were expelled are:
-- Jabril Mahmoud Rajub, 34, the business manager for a Palestinian women's magazine who served 15 years of a life sentence for membership in a terrorist cell said to have carried out 10 attacks. He was among 1,150 Palestinian prisoners released in a controversial 1985 exchange for three Israeli soldiers captured in Lebanon.
-- Husam Hadar, 26, accused of being a Fatah activist who helped instigate disturbances in the Balata refugee camp outside Nablus where soldiers killed three Palestinians on Dec. 11.
-- Bashir Khayri, 45, an attorney from Ramallah described as a senior operative in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist group. He previously spent 15 years in prison for setting a bomb "which killed several people."
-- Jamal Jabara, 28, accused of helping to organize violent demonstrations on Dec. 21 in his home town of Qalqiliya. He served six years of an 18-year sentence for terrorist activity before being released in the 1985 exchange.
Another West Bank Palestinian and four from the Gaza Strip are also scheduled to be expelled but have appealed their cases.