RAMALLAH, Israeli-Occupied West Bank — Three more Palestinians died from Israeli gunfire in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Monday as Jewish settlers in the occupied areas became directly involved in the wave of violence for the first time since it began nearly five weeks ago.
A settlement leader from nearby Ofra shot and killed one youth and wounded another from Beitin, a village just north of here. An army spokeswoman said the incident appeared to be a justified act of self-defense when the settler and a companion were ambushed by stone throwers at a makeshift roadblock. But Palestinian sources contested the story.
Earlier, U.N. officials said that a group of Israeli settlers had terrorized residents of the Kalandiyeh refugee camp on the main road between Ramallah and Jerusalem by entering the camp and firing their weapons in the air. Kalandiyeh is a frequent trouble spot where Palestinian youths on Monday morning erected a roadblock of flaming tires and threw rocks at passing Israeli vehicles.
In their first public comment since the unrest began, meanwhile, settlement leaders from the West Bank and Gaza called on the government to build new Jewish enclaves in the Arab towns of Nablus and Jericho and in unspecified other locations in the occupied territories "in order to show that our right to this country is unquestionable."
There are about 60,000 Jewish settlers living among the 800,000 Palestinian residents of the West Bank, and about 2,500 Israelis among the 650,000 Arabs of the Gaza Strip.
As a group, the settlers strongly support rightist Israeli political parties and many advocate Israeli annexation of the occupied territories. The overwhelming majority also own and carry firearms either issued by the army as part of a regional defense organization or bought with government blessing for protection.
Any change from the relatively low profile the settlers have assumed since the latest unrest began is therefore seen here as a potentially volatile new element in the situation.
'Has to Be a Lesson'
Gen. Amram Mitzna, the Israeli army officer in charge of the West Bank, said after Monday's shooting incident in Beitin that although "it is too bad that it happened . . . I also think that it has to be a lesson to these people--(Arab) locals--who dare time after time to disturb public traffic."
Pinchas Wallerstein, 39, head of the Binyamin regional settlers' council, told army and police investigators that he and Ofra security chief Shai Ben-Yosef were driving toward the settlement Monday morning when they came across a burning tire in the road at Beitin.
When they stopped, according to the settlers, youths charged the car, throwing stones. Wallerstein said he first fired in the air, but when that failed to deter the stone throwers, he fired at their legs. One of the shots killed a youth identified by residents as Rabah Mahmoud Ghanam, 17.
Arab Account Differs
Arab residents told reporters later Monday that the youths were not throwing stones but were about to light a tire they had put in the road when an Israeli driver pulled up, got out of the car and opened fire.
"I personally know Pinchas and Shai," Mitzna told Israeli army radio, and "I . . . believe that their story is as they told it, and as I saw it in the field."
Nevertheless, police were continuing to hold Wallerstein for questioning overnight. Unlike Palestinian residents of the occupied territories, Jewish settlers there come under the jurisdiction of Israeli civil rather than military law.
Another Gaza Fatality
In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, the army reported that a 20-year-old Khan Yunis resident was shot to death when he tried to take a rifle away from an Israeli officer. The officer shot twice in the air before fatally wounding the youth, according to a military spokesman.
Palestinian sources identified the dead man as Mustafa Yusef Khadir.
The army spokesman also confirmed that Basel Al Yazouri, 20, who was wounded during clashes in Rafah on Saturday, died of his injuries Monday in an Israeli hospital.
The three new deaths brought the confirmed total of Palestinian fatalities from Israeli gunfire since the trouble began on Dec. 9 to 32. Twenty-two of the victims are from the Gaza Strip, where the violence continued on Monday to be the worst in the territories.
Nearly Dozen Gazans Wounded
Israel radio reported that nearly a dozen other Gaza Palestinians were wounded in widespread clashes with troops Monday, and Arab sources said there was some kind of disturbance in virtually every town and refugee camp in the area. The unrest continued despite army reinforcements ordered into the Gaza Strip after a violent weekend when the area resembled a war zone.