5-Year-Old Arab Boy Slain by Israeli Gunfire : Becomes Youngest Victim of Uprising; Youth Also Dies in Demonstrations

Times Staff Writer

A 5-year-old boy and a Palestinian youth were killed by gunfire from Israeli troops during anti-government protests Tuesday, and a leading Jewish expert on the occupied territories said that government efforts to end the Arab uprising are resulting in a “horrifying increase” in violations of Palestinian civil rights.

The boy, Zia Haj Mohammed, is believed to be the youngest victim of army gunfire in more than 10 months of anti-Israeli unrest in the territories.

He and the other victim, 14-year-old Khaled Tbaileh, apparently were in a group “throwing stones and bottles” at troops in an old section of Nablus, the West Bank’s largest city, when the soldiers opened fire with plastic bullets, a military source said. Arab eyewitnesses said the 5-year-old was an innocent bystander. Both boys were hit in the chest.

“It’s not a situation where they were aiming and shooting at a specific person,” the source said.


The deaths brought to at least 280 the number of Palestinians killed since the uprising began last Dec. 9.

The army began issuing plastic bullets to troops in the territories last month, calling the ammunition a less lethal alternative to conventional bullets. However, a dozen Palestinians now are reported to have been killed by plastic bullets.

Three other individuals were shot and wounded in the Nablus clash, which broke out after a tour of the town by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin. One of those wounded was an American free-lance photographer identified as Neal Cassidy, 37. Cassidy, on assignment for Frontline, a biweekly newspaper in Berkeley, Calif., is believed to be the first foreign journalist wounded in the uprising.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, a study sponsored by the authoritative West Bank Database Project said a cycle of continuing Palestinian violence and mounting curbs on civil rights has developed. Project director Meron Benvenisti said this signals the need for political moves “beyond the scope and capacity of mere law-and-order enforcement.”


Election in 2 Weeks

The report, which Benvenisti said he was making public earlier than planned because of “the seriousness of the situation,” came just two weeks before Israeli elections.

The center-left Labor Alignment of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres unveiled Monday what it termed a four-year peace program it will enact if Labor wins. Key elements include revival of a U.S.-backed plan for an international peace conference, democratic elections in the occupied territories to choose Palestinian representatives for talks and Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, head of the rightist Likud Bloc, dismissed the Labor program Tuesday as “a gimmick of an election campaign, not a political plan.” Likud, which is Labor’s chief rival in the closely contested campaign, rejects the international conference and its implicit promise that Israel will trade occupied land for peace.

Speaking to the Foreign Press Assn., Shamir said the 1978 agreements between Egypt and Israel, hammered out with U.S. mediation at Camp David, Md., constitute “the only realistic plan existing on our scene.”

A summary of Likud’s election platform made public Tuesday says: “The autonomy arrangements agreed to at Camp David are a guarantee that west of the Jordan River there will be no territorial partition, no Palestinian state shall arise, and there shall be no foreign sovereignty or self-determination. Israel will enforce law and order in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.” Judea and Samaria are biblical names for the West Bank.

Shamir rejected the Benvenisti report’s conclusions about civil rights in the territories. “What we are doing now is to defend ourselves against rioters,” he said. “It has nothing to do with human rights.”