Israelis kill 6 Palestinians in Gaza 8-year-old girl among the dead as disturbances erupt

December 20, 1992|By Clyde Haberman | Clyde Haberman,New York Times News Service

JERUSALEM -- Six Palestinians, including an 8-year-old girl, were shot to death by Israeli soldiers yesterday in the Gaza Strip during street disturbances that erupted after the army briefly lifted a weeklong curfew to let residents buy food.

The death toll was one of the highest for a single day since the start of the Palestinian uprising five years ago, and it intensified already grave concern in Jerusalem that new waves of violence lie ahead after Israel's deportation of 415 Palestinians to Lebanon last week.

A strong condemnation of the expulsions by the United Nations Security Council on Friday night was rejected by Israel yesterday as a "one-sided resolution" that ignored Israel's security fears.

Senior officials said they were not about to undo the expulsions, aimed specifically at Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Hamas that have declared themselves committed to killing Israelis and the Middle East peace negotiations.

"It is particularly disappointing," said Gad Ben-Ari, a spokesman for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, that the Security Council "chose to totally ignore the nature of Hamas and the Islamic Holy War, to which those who were removed belonged."

On their second day of exile, the deported Palestinians began to dig in for what looks like a long haul in a strip of southern Lebanon -- dubbed a no man's land but actually Lebanese soil -- between Israeli and Lebanese army checkpoints.

Lebanon has refused to allow the men to enter areas under its military control, and the Israeli government says that since the Palestinians are now in Lebanese territory they are no longer Israel's responsibility.

That position is to be tested today, when civil rights lawyers will ask the Supreme Court in Jerusalem to order that the Palestinians be returned because they were sent to a country unwilling to accept them.

"Nobody can say that Lebanon has any obligation whatsoever to accept these people," said Avigdor Feldman, one of the lawyers. "Just imagine if someone tried to send 400 accused terrorists to Israel."

News reports from the no man's land in the Marj al-Zohour area said the deported fundamentalists had begun to dig drainage ditches in the rocky soil around more than 50 tents that international relief agencies delivered Friday night along with food, clothing and blankets.

Some agency representatives expressed concern that the small tent city might turn into a form of refugee camp, and Reuters quoted one Palestinian, Omar Ferdaneh, as saying that "most likely we will be here for a long time, even months."

Despite the physical hardship and emotional toll the expulsions have inflicted, the fundamentalists said they do not want Lebanon to take them in. They see each day spent out in the open as increasing pressure on Israel to allow them to return to their homes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"The situation is being used -- I'd say abused -- by the Lebanese and Hamas to portray Israel as the aggressor and those expelled as innocent victims," an Israeli official charged.

The deportation, the largest by Israel since soon after the 1967 Middle East War, had been expected to produce unrest in the occupied lands, which have been entirely sealed off since an Israeli border policeman was kidnapped last weekend.

The policeman, Sgt. Maj. Nissim Toledano, was found stabbed to death, his body dumped along a West Bank highway.

His slaying, coming on the heels of the fatal shooting of four soldiers, led to a popular feeling in Israel that strong and swift action had to be taken against Hamas, whose armed guerrillas said they were responsible.

At first, the violence expected in the territories did not materialize. For the most part, the West Bank and Gaza have been quiet for the last two days, with only a few scattered disorders and shootings reported.

The calm ended yesterday afternoon, when the army declared a 75-minute lifting of the curfew in the Gaza town of Khan Yunis so residents could do essential shopping. Only women could leave their houses, soldiers said, leading to protests from men that turned quickly into stone-throwing riots.

An army announcement said that the soldiers opened fire because they felt their lives were at risk. Palestinian witnesses said some of the shooting was indiscriminate and, as a result, bystanders had been killed and wounded along with rock throwers. Among those killed was Rana Abu Tyur, 8, who was shot in the chest.

In all, the army put the number of wounded at 15; residents said 30. Either way, a strict curfew was reimposed on Khan Yunis, along with the rest of the turbulent Gaza Strip, where Hamas support is deep.

It seemed unlikely to be eased soon, especially with the leadership of the Palestinian uprising having called for 10 days of "fire and rage" to protest the expulsions.

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