March 7, 1996 in Nation/World

Hope, Peace Fade Quickly In West Bank Hostility Runs High As Israelis Retaliate For Hamas Bombings; Palestinians Rationalize

Associated Press

Israeli soldiers forced Palestinians caught breaking curfew Wednesday to sit for hours on a curb inside a barbedwire barrier. “Head down, hands behind your back,” one soldier bellowed.

In the Al Fawar refugee camp down the road, Palestinians calmly tried to justify suicide bombings by two men from their neighborhood who killed 23 Israelis, two Americans and a Palestinian last week.

“Theirs was a normal response” to Israeli occupation, said math teacher Iyyad Qawasmi, 23, peering from his balcony as soldiers patrolled below to enforce a three-day-old curfew.

With hostility running high on both sides, the mood on the street was as if Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin had never shaken hands at the White House.

Hunting for Muslim militants who plotted four suicide bombings over a nine-day period, Israeli soldiers deployed in most of the West Bank on Wednesday, including areas that already were ceremoniously handed over to Palestinian police last fall.

Troops demonstrated who is in charge, laying siege to the West Bank’s 465 towns and villages and confining Palestinians to their communities. Jeeps blocked dusty back roads and metal spikes were laid across asphalted streets to keep back motorists.

There were no exceptions. No Palestinians entered Israel on Wednesday - neither ambulances nor Palestinian VIPs.

Mohammed Abu Awwad, a Palestinian Authority employee whose office handles millions of dollars in foreign aid, was ordered by a young Israeli officer to get out of his car and stand in line with several other men on the main road south of Hebron.

After inspecting Abu Awwad’s identity card, the officer told him he must immediately return to his village, nearby Dura.

Abu Awwad, dressed in a vested gray suit and tie, got into his car. Shaking with humiliation, he told a reporter he could not understand the scope of the Israeli crackdown. As a supporter of peace, he strongly opposed the bombings, he said.

“You can’t punish all people for one man’s sin,” he added.

At that point, an Israeli command car pulled alongside Abu Awwad’s car, parked on the roadside. “You have exactly 10 seconds to move or I’m going to arrest you,” said the same officer he had encountered before.

Abu Awwad quickly drove off.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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