Two drive-by slayings spur reclosure of West Bank Israel pressures Arafat

Palestinian faction suspected in deaths

July 27, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

JERUSALEM -- Three days after the months-long closure of the West Bank was partially lifted, it was back in full force yesterday after suspected Palestinian militants killed two Israelis and critically wounded a third in a drive-by shooting.

The attack early yesterday was the first on Jews in Israel since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office, and it tested his vow to succeed where his predecessors failed in establishing a sense of security for ordinary Israelis.

The authorities said the new closing would remain in effect indefinitely.

After a stormy Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu issued a statement demanding that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat do more to "quash the terror of the terrorist organizations, without distinction."

But Arafat replied by denouncing the new blockade as "a breach" of agreements. One of his top advisers called the move "a barbaric act, a provocation and an act of revenge."

The shooting took place about 1 a.m. near the Israeli farming town of Tirosh, about 10 miles from the West Bank.

An Israel television report said ballistics tests showed that the same rifle had been used in two other fatal drive-by shootings this year, including an attack in the same area last month that killed an Israeli couple.

The Israeli Army radio said the authorities believed that the gunmen belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization that is opposed to peace with Israel.

As the army imposed a complete closing of the West Bank, barring its 1 million Palestinian residents from entering Israel, some members of Netanyahu's conservative government called for even harsher action, including a cessation of all peace talks with the Palestinians.

Palestinian officials made plain their alarm at what they called an overreaction.

"How can the closure lead to an end of such attacks when it prevents the Palestinian people from making their daily bread?" said Nabil Abu Rdainah, Arafat's media adviser.

Pub Date: 7/27/96

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