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Israel Rejects U.S. Plea on Use of Force : Also Objects to U.N. Resolution, Detains Hundreds of Arabs

December 24, 1987|CHARLES P. WALLACE | Times Staff Writer

JERUSALEM — Israel on Wednesday sharply rejected American criticism of its handling of violent demonstrations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

A Foreign Ministry statement said the Israeli government "regrets and takes issue" with statements from the White House and State Department, which on Tuesday condemned Israel's use of lethal force. It also objected to a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli activities in the occupied territories and the U.S. abstention in the council vote; the U.S. failure to exercise its veto permitted the resolution to pass.

"Israel hopes that the United States, a true friend of Israel, and all other states wishing to advance peace in the Middle East will be particularly careful not to adopt positions which might be interpreted as support for extremist elements who encourage violence," the statement said.

'Unnecessary Obstacles'

"Such positions could create unnecessary obstacles to Israel's efforts to restore calm and order and to bring about a peaceful settlement in the Middle East," it said.

The unusual Israeli retort to the Reagan Administration was issued Wednesday, shortly after Israeli security forces detained hundreds of Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip in an apparent effort to quell more than two weeks of rioting that so far has left 21 people dead.

Security forces also ringed the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza and reportedly refused to let the camp's residents enter or leave. Israeli soldiers used steel drums to partially block a main road at another camp, Dahaisha, on the outskirts of Bethlehem in the West Bank, but residents were allowed to leave.

Torrential Rain

The occupied territories were reported quiet Wednesday except for a few stone-throwing incidents. It was unclear if the slackening violence was a reaction to the detentions by the authorities or a result of the torrential rain that kept both the residents and the security forces under cover most of the day.

Israel radio reported that 30,000 of Gaza's 50,000 workers had shown up for their jobs in Israel, an indication that the situation was returning to normal after days of strikes. But 10,000 other workers were blocked in the Jabaliya camp, the broadcast said.

The exact number of Palestinians arrested was not announced by the authorities. Israel radio said without elaboration that the number was in the hundreds while military sources put the number at 150 and East Jerusalem's Palestine Press Service said it was 334.

One Arab journalist placed the total number detained at around 400, saying that four buses were filled with detainees in the West bank town of Nablus and another 100 people were taken away in Hebron and Ramallah.

Detention Center Opened

Israeli news media reported that at least one new facility had been opened in the West Bank, near Hebron, to act as a detention center for those arrested during the night.

Israeli officials had predicted a major crackdown aimed at removing Palestinians who are considered to be the instigators of the latest wave of violence.

Responding to criticism of the use of live ammunition against demonstrators and stone-throwers, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said it was his duty to give the nation's soldiers "the means to protect themselves . . . to hurt those out to hurt them."

Rabin spoke to a stormy session of the Knesset, Israel's 120-member Parliament, where he was repeatedly interrupted by criticism from left-wing parties. One Arab lawmaker was ejected from the debate for heckling.

Image Problems Abroad

Rabin said he knew that Israel's image abroad has suffered after news media coverage of the violence in the West Bank and Gaza.

"But I am convinced that above and beyond the temporary problem of our image," Rabin said, "the supreme responsibility of our government is to fight violence in the territories and to use all the means at our disposal."

Rabin gave official figures showing that 21 people have been killed and 58 wounded by gunfire since the violence erupted in the occupied territories Dec. 8. He said 31 soldiers and border police have been injured, along with 19 civilians.

Palestinian sources have reported 25 dead and several hundred wounded in the disturbances.

Detentions Without Trial

Rabin told the Knesset that military commanders will retain the authority to order detention without trial and deportation of those who incite riots.

Later in the day, the policy-making Inner Cabinet of Israel's coalition government heard a report on the disturbances and the military's plans for dealing with them.

A statement issued afterwards said the Inner Cabinet gave its support to the "measures being taken by the defense establishment according to the policy it has presented, and it will continue its activities in accordance with this policy."

Israeli officials said they doubted that Israel's relations with the United States would be permanently harmed by the dispute over the recent violence.

Strong U.S. Criticism

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