Jews ransack Arab market in protest at rabbi's killing

Click to follow
MILITANT JEWISH settlers went on the rampage in the tense West Bank city of Hebron yesterday, destroying crates of fruit and vegetables in an Arab market and pelting reporters with potatoes, tomatoes and eggs.

The rioters, mostly Jewish women and children, were protesting over last week's murder by Palestinians of Shlomo Ra'anan, a 63-year-old rabbi killed in his home.

The Arab stallholders were among about 30,000 Palestinians living on the Israeli side who spent three days under curfew. Israeli troops have placed the entire city under a virtual siege, including the 80 per cent of the city controlled by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority.

The siege claimed its first victim on Saturday night when a three-month- old boy died of fever because Israeli checks prevented his parents from getting him to hospital in time. He was named as Kasay Sultan. Doctors at the Alia hospital said he arrived too late to save him.

About 20 Arab youths responded to the mayhem in the market by marching from the Palestinian-controlled area towards an Israeli checkpoint, where they burned tyres and hurled rocks at the soldiers. The troops fired back with rubber-coated metal bullets and at least four of the Arabs were treated later in hospital for wounds.

Some of the settlers, who are not bound by the curfew, tried to break into Palestinian-held areas, but were forcibly restrained by Israeli security men.

The Arab mayor of Hebron, Mustafa Natsche, complained yesterday that people who had nothing to do with the rabbi's death were paying the price. "The situation is very serious," he said. "The controls are very tight. Our people can't go to work, and it is even difficult to bring in essential materials.".

Hebron's 100,000 Arabs are already suffering a chronic water shortage, owing go to the unusually hot summer. They have been buying extra water from tankers.

Mr Natsche protested that the Israelis were now blocking the tankers heading into the city.

Rabbi Ra'anan, a member of a leading religious nationalist family, was stabbed to death in Tel Rumeida, a hilltop site where seven fanatical Jewish settler families live in caravans in the middle of an Arab neighbourhood. Until now, the government has resisted their demands for permanent homes to be built there. However, Benjamin Netanyahu's ministers voted yesterday to build homes.

Dan Naveh, a Cabinet spokesman, said: "Whoever thinks he can weaken the [Jewish] settlement in Hebron by acts of despicable murder like we witnessed last week can see that he is making a bitter mistake and will achieve the opposite result."

It is five years since the Israeli-Palestinian accord was being signed in Oslo. Mr Naveh said: "We received a bloody reminder a few days ago why Oslo is not a reason to rejoice.

"Perhaps it would be fitting to begin the ceremony with a minute's silence in memory of all the Jews who have been murdered since the agreement was signed."