JERUSALEM — Israel eased curfews on the Gaza Strip today as Palestinian unrest subsided and officials said thousands of Gazans went to work in Israel after being unable to travel for 12 days.
"There is a quietening at the moment. . . . I believe the way the forces applied the curfews brought the calm," Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said on a tour of the Gaza Strip.
The action followed appeals from the United States, Canada and the United Nations to allow residents in the sealed-off camps to get food.
About 650,000 people live in the Israeli-occupied area, more than a third in refugee camps which have been under almost continuous curfew since early last week with only brief daily breaks in some places to allow residents to buy food.
Strategy for Normalcy
The army said the decision to let workers at four of the eight camps travel to their jobs was part of a strategy to return life to normal. Curfews would be lifted altogether when complete calm returned, it said.
The relaxation of curfews came as Israeli employers said the absence of cheap Arab labor was causing serious economic damage and education officials made emergency plans to draft high school students for the vital citrus harvest.
Palestinians said fatigue, hunger and the need to earn money had combined with curfews and repression to ease the unrest, in which the Israelis have killed 39 Arabs and wounded about 400 since Dec. 9.
Food Shipment Barred
Rabin has barred food and clothing shipments to the occupied territories from foreign governments and organizations as long as traders there continue protest strikes although the U.N. Relief and Works Agency has been allowed to continue food supplies to the camps.
There was relative calm in the occupied territories although some violence was reported overnight in Israel.
A stone smashed the window of a bus approaching Tel Aviv Wednesday night, and the driver saw a fleeing figure in a ski-mask, police said. There were no injuries.
Also Wednesday night, two firebombs were thrown at a bus carrying schoolchildren on the Wadi Ara Highway linking the coast to Galilee, police said. No injuries were reported.
The firebombs were thought to have been thrown by militants among Israel's Arab citizens who live in a village along the road, and officials warned them not to be swept up in the West Bank unrest.