Jews react to slayings with bullets Cycle of reprisals claims another life

March 24, 1993|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Jerusalem Bureau

SUSIYA, Israeli-occupied West Bank -- The land is hard on th edge of the desert, all stone and stubborn ground. The Jews who claim it for Israel are equally unyielding. They say they must fight for survival.

It was here yesterday that a Palestinian, bound hand and foot, was shot eight times at close range by a Jewish settler, according to the army.

The man had stabbed one of two Jewish guards who were taking him to the settlement for questioning, and an Army report said a hand grenade was found on him.

The killing seemed an inevitable consequence of the rising cries of anger and reprisal that have been a backdrop to increasingly lethal violence between Palestinians and Israelis -- in the last three months, 12 Israelis and 71 Palestinians have been killed.

The skirmishes are no longer being waged only by Israeli soldiers. In the past weeks, Israeli civilians have rampaged through Arab villages shooting houses and cars. Several Palestinians have been shot by Jewish settlers in unclear circumstances.

Attacks on Jews have prompted the public to ask if the government can no longer protect them. Those fears have been fanned by politicians who have urged civilians to carry guns and who have suggested that Arabs who attack Jews should be killed on the spot.

Mr. Rabin yesterday seemed to add his voice to theirs.

"We must become a fighting nation," he said at a police ceremony for youths. "One stabber can run in the streets of Israel's cities and stab eight or 10 people. Where is the public? Has it lost its ability to react?"

At Susiya, they need no such urging. This Jewish settlement beside the Negev desert 10 miles south of Hebron always has regarded warily its Arab neighbors.

"I have always carried a gun," said Harva Levanon, 31, the mother of eight. She and her husband were among the first to come to Susiya 10 years ago. Now there are 40 families. Their red-roofed homes stand as sentries on the treeless hilltop, lined in vigilance over the Palestinian homes in the valleys below.

At night, children roller-skate in the street, and the nearby ridges glitter with the lights of other settlements. But a security jeep prowls the streets for intruders from the dark, and the men coming in from work take rifles from their cars likes commuters toting briefcases.

About 7:30 yesterday morning, the security jeep stopped Musa Suliman Abu Sabha, walking on the road outside Susiya's main gate. According to the residents' accounts, the guards were suspicious of Mr. Abu Sabha and put him in the back of their jeep to take him to the settlement for questioning.

As they started to drive, the 20-year-old man pulled out a knife and stabbed one guard, Moshe Deutsch, in the shoulder. The guards, both residents of the settlement, apparently wrestled him out of the vehicle and onto the ground.

They tied his feet and his arms, and called the Hebron police, according to their accounts. The commotion drew a small crowd, including Urim Skolnik, from a nearby settlement of Maal Hever, who drives teachers to the regional elementary school at Susiya.

According to a statement by the army, Mr. Skolnik approached the bound Palestinian and shot him eight times. The statement said an army hand grenade was found on the dead man's body, although other reports said the grenade had previously been removed from him.

Mr. Skolnik was arrested. At Susiya yesterday, residents shied from giving an opinion on the shooting, but their sentiments were clear.

"The Arabs only understand force. The government should have hit the Arabs harder when this all started," said one woman. "In Jordan, when the Palestinians started something like this, [King] Hussein went out with tanks, and that was the end of it."

"The Arabs are like Hitler," she continued. "They are after the whole country. What we want is a little piece of land that was historically promised us."

Mrs. Levanon agrees. Her own armament is a .22-caliber Beretta pistol, which she says she used once, five years ago, to shoot her way out of a Palestinian roadblock where her car was trapped. She is certain she did not hit anyone.

"When we fight them -- it's true, I know them -- they are afraid," said the slight, quiet-spoken woman. "When we are nice to them and kind to them, they think we are stupid."

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