JERUSALEM — At least six more Palestinian youths were wounded by Israeli army gunfire Saturday as demonstrations, strikes and protests spread to new areas of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip during a fourth straight day of violence.
The military command said that officers met with Arab mayors and notables from the occupied areas "to try and re-establish civil order and bring life back to normalcy" after one of the worst spates of blood-letting here in recent years.
The casualty toll for the four days includes at least six Palestinians dead and about 60 wounded, according to official figures. Palestinian sources claim two additional dead and scores more injured.
Army reinforcements were deployed in most major towns and refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which were captured by Israeli troops during the 1967 Six-Day War and are still administered by a combination of military and civilian Defense Ministry officials.
Special Session of Knesset
Israel radio reported that a parliamentary subcommittee on the occupied territories, chaired by Knesset (Parliament) member Amnon Linn of the centrist Labor Alignment, will hold a special session on the latest violent flare-up, which began last week in the Gaza Strip.
Yossi Sarid, a leftist Knesset member, called Saturday for the army to withdraw from densely populated Arab areas of the West Bank and Gaza, and Charlie Biton, a legislator from the Israel Communist Party, said there should be a judicial inquiry into the violence.
Neither proposal is expected to win any significant parliamentary support.
Meanwhile, Reuters news agency quoted Egyptian Foreign Ministry sources in Cairo as revealing that the government had sent a message to Jerusalem on Saturday condemning "the violent measures taken by Israel against Palestinians."
The sources said the message was from Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Maguid to his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres. The Egyptian official reportedly warned that violence would only breed additional violence as well as impede efforts to achieve a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement.
For the high number of casualties in the last few days, Israeli security sources blame an increase in the number and intensity of Palestinian attacks on army patrols with stones and Molotov cocktails. They say the army remains under orders to open fire against demonstrators only in life-threatening situations.
Analysts continue to offer a number of different possible reasons for increased unrest among the Palestinians, although Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Benjamin Natanyahu, told the Security Council on Friday that the Palestine Liberation Organization was deliberately fomenting the violence to recover "lost prestige."
Sources here noted, however, that the worst of the violence has been in parts of the occupied territories that are strongholds of Islamic fundamentalism. The fundamentalists, often organized under the rubric of Islamic Jihad (Holy War), are motivated more by religion than the traditional nationalist motives of the PLO.
Security sources here were also talking more Saturday about the possible impact on young Palestinians in the territories of last month's hang-glider attack in northern Israel, where a young rebel flew from Lebanon to an Israeli army camp, killing six soldiers and wounding eight more before he was shot to death. The raid caused a scandal in Israel over security lapses at the camp, but in the territories it was seen as a heroic victory for the lone gunman.
Saturday's bloodiest clashes again occurred in the Gaza Strip, where the army wounded at least five youths in scattered shooting incidents. The Palestine Press Service, which supports the PLO, said nine were wounded and scores more treated for tear gas inhalation and other injuries.
Israeli military sources confirmed that two of the hospitalized Palestinians are in very serious condition, reportedly with head wounds.
Another youth was wounded in the West Bank town of Hebron when an army patrol opened fire after being attacked with a Molotov cocktail.
Israeli military and Palestinian sources reported stone-throwing incidents and other disturbances in several towns on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Nablus, the largest city on the West Bank and the site of an incident Friday in which three Palestinians were shot to death by soldiers at the Balata refugee camp, was shut down by a commercial strike.
On Saturday, there were full or partial commercial strikes in protest over the deaths in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Gaza, according to Palestinian sources.