Deported Palestinians are fired upon as Israel bitterly assails its critics

December 22, 1992|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Jerusalem Bureau

JERUSALEM -- Israel answered criticisms of its deportation of 415 Palestinians with bitter words from its prime minister and bullets from its allies in southern Lebanon yesterday.

The Israeli-controlled South Lebanese Army (SLA) fired warning shots toward the group of deportees who had been ordered to walk back toward Israel by the Lebanese Army.

Two Palestinians were wounded and one of them was taken to a hospital in a Lebanese controlled village, according to a Reuter reporter with the deportees.

The other Palestinians stopped, apparently to spend their fifth night trapped between Lebanese and Israeli forces since they were summarily deported by Israel Thursday.

"There is no mercy in my heart for them," Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told the Israeli Knesset, or Parliament, speaking of the deportees. He mocked the "teary-eyed plays shown today on TV screens," and the "weeping media."

Mr. Rabin lashed back at the world condemnation of the deportations, promising Israel's response will be "harsher sevenfold" to further attacks in Israel or the occupied territories by Palestinians.

"The same world did not make a peep when 300,000 Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait and the same world sees thousands slaughtered every day in Bosnia and doesn't lift a finger," he said.

"They will not bind the state of Israel by its feet . . . or by its hands," he said of the critics. "Our hand, extended in real peace, is also the hand that will press the trigger in order to harm murderers . . . Only we will determine what is good for us."

Israel arrested 1,500 Palestinians and deported 415 of them without trial for up to two years. This followed a spate of murders of Israeli soldiers by members of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas organization.

The Israeli Supreme Court continued hearing appeals yesterday from lawyers for the Palestinians, who argue that the expulsions are illegal. The court delayed ruling until today.

Lebanon has refused to admit the deported Palestinians, saying it would not be "Israel's dumping ground." The deportees have been stuck in a barren, frozen strip of "no man's land" between checkpoints of the Lebanese Army and those controlled by the South Lebanese Army.

Yesterday, the Lebanese Army ordered the deportees to leave the temporary camp they had set up, and walk back toward the Israeli "security zone" in south Lebanon.

According to reporters in Lebanon, the deportees walked about a mile from their camp, before SLA militiamen fired machine guns into the air and then fired eight howitzer and mortar rounds near the Palestinians.

The SLA also warned that the path back had been mined to prevent the Palestinians from returning.

Israel denied any shooting had occurred, and said there was "tear gas and smoke." There was "no use of firearms, no shooting in the area," said Maj. Gen. Danny Yatom, the Israeli commander of the area.

Two Palestinians were injured, however. A Reuter correspondent drove one of them, who was injured by shrapnel in the jaw, to a nearby hospital, he reported.

Israel later placed troops armed with clubs on alert in case they had to be flown to south Lebanon to repulse another attempt at re-entry. A security source said the precaution was taken "because they do not want the South Lebanon Army forces to fire at them."

The Palestinians apparently returned to their camp last night. There were contradictory statements by Lebanese officials in Beirut as to whether the government had approved the order to the deportees to march toward Israel.

General Yatom yesterday repeated the government's vow not to permit the deportees back.

"We are determined not to allow the [return] of the deportees even if they will try to return back to an Israeli dominated area," he said. "We will do whatever is needed, using our [military] inventory, to stop them."

Israel contends those deported are commanders or activists of the Hamas or Islamic Jihad movements, both dedicated to the overthrow of Israel.

Israel has imposed curfews and closures in most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to try to dampen reaction to the deportations. But demonstrations have led to gunfire by Israeli soldiers, killing at least nine Palestinians.

In the Gaza Strip, a 10-year-old boy was reported killed yesterday, and a 9-year-old girl was killed over the weekend.

General Yatom yesterday defended the shootings. "From time to time, unfortunately, there are innocent people among a mob which assaults a small group of soldiers, [and they] are hurt," he said. "When an Israeli soldier is under circumstances which impose danger to his life, he has the right to defend himself."

Mr. Rabin apparently still retains considerable support for the deportations. His coalition easily survived a no- confidence vote in the Knesset yesterday. The criticism that has been heard in Israel is mostly that the deportation was not carried out smoothly enough -- not that it was wrong.

"No longer are we seen as a victim of terror, but rather as a brutal country being condemned by the world," complained columnist Yoel Marcus, writing in Ha'aretz newspaper. "We have lost world public opinion."

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