Tougher Israeli crackdown likely on Arab protests

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Violence flared again in the Gaza Strip even as authorities threatened sterner measures to deal with demonstrators in Israel and the occupied territories. One Palestinian was killed and seven were injured after police and demonstrators clashed at the Jabaliye refugee camp. Elsewhere in Gaza and the West Bank, only scattered incidents of stone-throwing and tire-burning were reported.

Specific military measures to contain rioting, which officials say has claimed at least 23 lives in the past two weeks, have not been spelled out. But Army reinforcements have been sent to the territories amid warnings that the soldiers will be less restrained in dealing with rioters.

``We will employ aggressive actions and will restore law and order to the territories,'' Maj. Gen. Amram Mitzna, head of Israel's Central Command, said in a television interview.

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Speculation in Jerusalem centered on the possibility that forces would carry out a mass roundup and detention of suspected Palestinian activists.

Meanwhile, civil authorities are said to be considering measures to punish Arab municipalities in Israel which supported a nationwide general strike Monday. The strike, which brought demonstrations, work stoppages, and incidents of violence into Israel itself, was held to show support for Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied territories.

Signs of increasing solidarity between Arabs living on opposite sides of the ``green line'' that separates Israel from the occupied lands have caused growing concern in Israel. The government's Arab Affairs Office confirmed yesterday that plans are being considered to withdraw support for Arab council heads who support actions like this week's strike, while rewarding Arab municipalities seen to be more sympathetic to Israel.

More Israeli troops and fewer tourists than usual were in evidence in central Bethlehem yesterday as authorities were preparing for possible new disturbances timed to coincide with the Christmas celebrations.

Under pressure from Palestinians, Bethlehem Mayor Elias Freij canceled this year's Christmas eve reception to which top Israeli officials are traditionally invited. Mr. Freij said all scheduled events of a religious nature will still be held.

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