The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.60/No.3           January 22, 1996 
Gaza: 100,000 Palestinians Protest Assassination  


One hundred thousand Palestinians in the Gaza Strip attended the funeral of Yahya Ayyash January 6, the day after his assassination. The Israeli political police, Shin Bet, are almost universally held responsible for the January 5 booby trap bombing.

Ayyash was killed in a private home in the Palestinian- controlled Gaza Strip. Both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority had publicly announced that they were hunting for Ayyash, who Tel Aviv claims was the architect of many of the bombings in Israel carried out by the Palestinian opposition group Hamas. Several Hamas leaders addressed the huge crowd at the funeral, which chanted angry slogans denouncing the murder.

A Washington Post article stated, "In Israel, the assassination is thought to be a boost for Prime Minister Shimon Peres, demonstrating his toughness to skeptical voters." Israeli officials have openly expressed their support for the killing of Ayyash.

The assassination occurred just two weeks before the Palestinian elections, scheduled for January 20. Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasir Arafat is expected to win by wide a margin against his only challenger, Samiha Khalil, an opponent of the Palestinian-Israeli accord. Palestinians will also elect an 88-member parliament.

Hamas has refused to run in the elections, but agreed not to call for an electoral boycott.

Continuing troop withdrawals
Just 10 days before the funeral march, on December 27, Palestinians cheered, danced, and raised hundreds of Palestinian flags as Israeli troops withdrew from Ramallah after 28 years of occupation.

Ramallah was the last of six West Bank cities scheduled for Israeli army pullout under the agreement - signed September 28 by then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat - that grants Palestinians limited self-rule.

On December 21 Israeli soldiers withdrew from Bethlehem. Young men raised the Palestinian flag and tore down a 12- foot-high fence surrounding a former Israeli military compound. "I can't express what I feel inside," quarry worker Issa abu Kamel told the New York Times. "That fence was like a prison for the Palestinian people, and now Bethlehem is free."

"When I saw the fence come down, I thought: the occupation is gone and the Palestinian state is on the way," Maha Andini said. "We waited 28 years for this. There's nothing sweeter."

Young people visit their former jails
In cities across the West Bank, young people visited cells where they had been imprisoned by the Israeli occupiers.

Israeli forces also withdrew from 400 smaller villages and towns in the West Bank.

The city of Jericho was turned over to Palestinian authority in May 1994. In March 1996 Hebron will be turned over, with the Israeli authorities retaining partial control of the city.

With the December withdrawals, 90 percent of the West Bank Arab population has come under the Palestinian Authority. Seventy percent of the land area, however, remains under Israeli control. Palestinian areas are broken up into 100 small enclaves surrounded by Israeli- controlled territory. The accords call for the gradual transfer of more West Bank territory to Palestinian control.

The agreement retains for the Israeli authorities the "overriding right" to enter any of the 400 Palestinian villages for "security" reasons.

Fight over water rights
A critical issue for Palestinians on the West Bank remains access to water resources. "Since 1967, the Israelis have had a complete hold on the Palestinian natural water supply," noted Allegra Pacheco, staff attorney for a human rights and legal aid office in Jerusalem, writing in the magazine Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

"In 28 years of occupation, only 23 wells have been dug for a population of 1 million Palestinians. By contrast...32 wells [have been dug] to serve Jewish settlers in the West Bank numbering no more than 100,000 persons," Pacheco wrote.

"The Palestinian village of Obadiyya outside of Jerusalem has been without water for more than a year," she stated. "The Israeli water company in the occupied territories - Mekorot - has been pumping just enough water into the local piping system to reach the neighboring Israeli settlements of Maale Adumim and Qedar, while Obadiyya remains dry."

Tel Aviv has refused to negotiate the control of the water supply in the West Bank.

Frank Collins wrote in the October/November issue of the Washington Report that the Israeli government has promised to raise the Palestinian water allotment by 25 percent over a four-year period, at the same time proclaiming that "any increases in water supply to Palestinians are not to come out of the Israeli share of the water."

In the December issue of the Washington Report Shawn Twing covered a recent U.S. tour of Palestinian businessmen seeking investment in the West Bank.

They report that measures taken by the Israeli government since the signing of the accords have worsened conditions for Palestinian businesses.

Cumbersome permit system
Where delivery to Israeli markets required a single permit before, now separate permits are required for the vehicle, its driver, and for the vehicle's cargo.

The permits are good for only a short period. An Israeli requirement that Palestinians rent Israeli trucks when transporting goods from the West Bank to Gaza increases the costs substantially.

Meanwhile, in another controversy, Maher al-Alami, editor of the Palestinian daily Al Quds, was detained for six days in December by the Preventive Security Apparatus, the Palestine Authority's security force. He was arrested the day after he refused to publish on the front page an article about Arafat's meeting with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.

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