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PLO Asks End to 'Massacres' in Occupied Zones

December 15, 1987|CHARLES P. WALLACE | Times Staff Writer

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, called Monday for the people of Israel to "stop the massacres of my people" in the occupied territories.

But Arafat said that resistance will continue by Palestinian residents in the territories, the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip.

"Our people haven't got tanks, bombs and airplanes," he said. "These are used by the Israeli army against our people, our women and children. Our people are using stones, like those used by David against Goliath."

Arafat, at his office in Baghdad, answered questions put to him by reporters in Cyprus by way of a conference telephone call arranged by the PLO.

The violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have thrust the PLO back into the headlines a month after the Palestinian issue was pushed aside by a summit conference of Arab leaders in Jordan, where the primary issues were Iran and the Iran-Iraq War.

Arafat said the information he has from the Israeli-occupied territories indicates that at least 26 Palestinians have been killed and 300 others wounded in the disturbances that erupted last week after four Palestinians were killed in a collision with an Israeli truck in the Gaza Strip. Arabs thought that the Israeli driver deliberately struck the Palestinians' vehicle.

Arafat said that although there have been "other massacres" of Palestinians living in the occupied territories, this was the worst outbreak of violence since the occupation began in 1967, when Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt.

"They think that by using the iron fist, they can stop the currents of history," he said of the Israelis.

He was asked whether the PLO incited Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to rise up against the Israeli security forces, as Israeli officials have charged, but he avoided a direct answer.

At one point he said the Palestinians had hurled stones because of Israel's occupation of hospitals and the "storming of the refugee camps." But at another he said the PLO was operating as "one unit inside and outside" the Israeli-occupied territories.

Arafat said the Israeli government had decided several weeks ago to use the "iron hand" in the occupied territories but had held back at the request of the United States until after the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting last week.

"The Israeli army is using American weapons," he said. "There is absolute support from the American Administration for this official terrorism against our people."

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