4 Arabs Killed at Funeral; Highest Toll Since October
Israeli troops shot and killed four Palestinian men during the funeral for a teen-ager in the West Bank city of Nablus on Friday, a clear indication that in spite of stepped-up international diplomatic activity, peace is not near between Israel and the Palestinian population it rules.
The four fatalities marked the highest single-day Arab toll since early October and brought the number of Palestinians killed to about 320 since the Arab uprising on the West Bank and Gaza Strip began more than a year ago.
The victims were shot during a street funeral for 15-year-old Ashraf al Haj Daoud, who died early Friday of gunshot wounds received Nov. 25 when soldiers opened fired on Palestinian protesters in Nablus.
At 8 a.m., scores of protesters joined a funeral march for Daoud from Anglican Hospital, where he had died six hours earlier, military officials said. The mourners draped the coffin in the outlawed red, white, green and black Palestinian flag, carried other nationalist banners by hand and shouted vengeful slogans, Palestinian sources said.
Businesses in the town were shuttered to protest Daoud’s death, and black mourning flags dotted rooftops of the city.
Israeli soldiers soon arrived to disperse the procession, and the Palestinians hurled stones at them.
Two of Friday’s victims died during that clash when troops opened fire. The others were fatally wounded as the violence spread to nearby neighborhoods.
Incident Under Investigation
Officials of the Israel Defense Forces said that Gen. Amram Mitzna, military commander on the West Bank, is investigating to determine whether the soldiers responded with undue force.
Anglican Hospital employees told The Times that the four victims bore wounds to the head and chest. Israeli soldiers are under orders to fire at the feet of protesters and to use plastic bullets, projectiles usually less lethal then metal rounds.
The employees named three of the dead as Yassin Sharshir, 21; Fayez Shako, 22, and Iyad Abu Helal, 18. The fourth victim was tentatively identified as Nidal Shafik, 26.
In all, about 20 Arabs were injured in clashes throughout Nablus, an Israeli army spokesman reported. Youths ignited tires and trash piles on city streets and threw stones at military patrols.
Army sources saw in the multiple protests a plan of provocation aimed at underscoring the latest diplomatic gains by the Palestine Liberation Organization.
“Several demonstrations were obviously planned ahead of time,” a military spokesperson said.
Nablus, which is the West Bank’s largest city and a hotbed of unrest, was placed under curfew for the rest of the day. Stoning incidents were also reported in villages near Tulkarm, on the frontier between Israel and the occupied West Bank.
Israeli military officials consider Washington’s new readiness to talk with the PLO an indirect stamp of approval on Arab violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, military sources said.
“We can expect more attacks on our soldiers. The terrorist elements think they have worldwide approval to make trouble,” one official said.
On Friday, Arturo Herstog, an Israeli soldier killed Tuesday by a Palestinian shepherd, was buried in the Israeli town of Petah Tikva. He was the 10th Israeli Jew to die in the intifada, as the uprising is known in Arabic.
Israeli irritation at the switch in U.S. policy toward the PLO was displayed Friday at the international airport near Tel Aviv, where police took an Arab-American activist into custody as he disembarked from an arriving plane. The American, Abdeen Jabara, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, was expected to be detained overnight. It was not clear if he would be deported.