JERUSALEM — Rain and a massive show of army force dampened Palestinian resistance on the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River on Monday, but in the Gaza Strip one Arab was shot to death and at least eight others were wounded by army gunfire in the sixth straight day of violence.
Palestinian sources said that another Arab youth, critically wounded last week, also died Monday, bringing to at least eight the death toll from the most serious unrest in the occupied areas since 1981.
Israeli officials acknowledge another 75 Palestinians wounded by army gunfire since last Wednesday, while Arab sources now put the total at well over 100.
The violence has brought expressions of concern from the United Nations as well as the governments of the United States and France. And Israel radio Monday quoted Minister of Tourism Avraham Sharir and airline officials as saying they are worried that accounts of the unrest published and broadcast overseas may cut into tourism at Christmastime.
Clearly discomfited by the bloodletting, Israeli officials have sought to reassure the public that the rash of violence, while admittedly serious, falls well short of civil insurrection. But as the trouble continued, it was clear that various Israeli political factions were putting their own interpretations on the situation.
Speaking Monday before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of Parliament, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir charged that the Palestine Liberation Organization has ordered its agents in the occupied territories to step up disturbances.
Shmuel Goren, coordinator of the military government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, told the same committee that the severity of the clashes is being exaggerated by the Israeli news media. And right-wing politicians from Shamir's Likud Bloc charged that comments by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres last week had encouraged more unrest.
Peres, who heads the centrist Labor Alignment, Likud's major political rival, said last Monday that it was a mistake to encourage Jewish settlement in the densely populated Gaza Strip, and he urged the dismantling of existing settlements in return for unspecified arrangements to "demilitarize" the area.
Israel captured the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War. About 2,200 Jews live in three settlement blocs occupying about 40% of the available land area of the Gaza Strip, which is also home to about 650,000 Palestinian Arabs. One of the most densely populated areas on earth, Gaza is also a traditional hotbed of anti-Israeli resistance.
In an apparent reference to Peres' statement, Likud's co-chairman of the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliyahu Ben-Elissar, told Israel radio that defeatist comments from certain "quarters" had encouraged Palestinians to believe they were successfully splitting Israeli society.
But Ben-Elissar's Labor counterpart, former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, said that Peres is a force for moderation by holding out some hope for the Palestinians.
Monday's fatality occurred in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis, near the Egyptian border, when soldiers opened fire on what a military spokesman described as "hundreds of youngsters" who threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at them. Hassan Jarhoun, 25, was killed and four more youths were injured.
Later Monday, soldiers opened fire again at youths stoning an army roadblock, wounding four more Palestinians, according to Israel radio.
The Palestine Press Service, which supports the PLO, reported separately that 21-year-old Ahmed abu Khoussa, who had been in a coma with a head wound since being shot by troops in Gaza last Wednesday, died at Tel Aviv's Tal Hashomer Hospital. Israeli military sources could not immediately confirm the report.