Vigilante rule brings anarchy to Bethlehem : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 06 2000 MURAD SEZER / AP Vigilante rule brings anarchy to Bethlehem


ANARCHY began to spread through the occupied territories yesterday with the emergence of Jewish militia groups and armed Palestinian gangs refusing to take orders from their central authorities. Security sources on both sides said there was a danger that they would be unable to control extremists after a series of attacks by Palestinians, in defiance of orders from Yassir Arafat to stop the fighting.

Settlers went on an armed rampage in which 30 people were wounded in Husan, near Bethlehem. In the north of the West Bank at Kfar al Dik, the Israeli Army was forced to declare the Palestinian village a closed military area for hours when settlers rioted and brandished their weapons.

Settlers tried to storm the village in protest at the wounding of another settler by Palestinians from Kfar al Dik overnight. The army joined in the reprisals by bulldozing 250 olive trees that it said had been used as cover by Palestinian gunmen.

For the Israeli authorities, the Palestinians remain the main cause for concern, but after warnings that there might be an attempt on his life from Palestinians or Israeli fanatics, Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli Chief of Staff, has taken delivery of a bullet-proof BMW.

Palestinian areas appear to be rapidly descending into chaos amid high-level warnings that Bethlehem is likely to be a focus of trouble in the weeks before Christmas.

“Things are getting very dangerous. There are problems with armed elements in Bethlehem which have been ordered to stop firing on Gilo (a Jewish settlement forming the southern edge of Jerusalem). They listen to what they are told by the authorities and then they just go out and make things worse,” a Palestinian security source in Bethlehem said.

It has been clear for some time that Mr Arafat’s “control” over the al-Aqsa intifada does not extend to the radical Palestinian elements, including the West Bank leaders of his own Fatah movement.

Jewish settlers have also begun to show open contempt for the army and the rule of law on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, where 80 per cent of the land is still under Israeli military occupation.

Yesterday settlers from the Gush Etzion area, a middle- class religious settlement, formed a militia to patrol bypass tunnels built to avoid driving through Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem.

The road has been closed repeatedly over the past two months and has been the scene of gunbattles between settlers alongside the army and Palestinians. Yesterday Jewish militiamen could be seen driving the tunnel route with their rifles poking out of car windows.

Yesterday morning one settler was wounded by Israeli troops when he drove through an Israeli army roadblock on the West Bank.

“There is no doubt that settlers are taking the law into their own hands. In fact they have done so from the start of the al-Aqsa intifada, with attacks on Palestinians almost every day. In areas where they are living close to Jewish settlements, the Palestinians are in great danger from vigilantes who shoot at them every day,” Neta Golan, an Israeli human rights campaigner in Kfar al Dik, said.

An estimated 293 people have been killed since the start of the uprising, of whom about 35 are Jews. Yesterday Israeli soldiers shot dead one man near Bethlehem and another in Ramallah.

In Amman, the Jordanian capital, Shlomo Ratsabi, an Israeli Embassy employee, was shot and slightly wounded in the leg in an attack on his car yesterday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.

An economic blockade of Palestinian towns has cost the Palestinians an estimated £5.5 million a day. Sealed into their villages with bulldozed mounds of earth and army roadblocks, Palestinians have been unable to work for weeks.

Food deliveries have been sporadic and medical supplies are routinely held up by the Israelis, who often also delay ambulances trying to reach Palestinians. In this atmosphere, anarchy among Palestinians is likely to spread.,,46950,00.html

-- Martin Thompson (, December 06, 2000

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