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Car Bomb Disarmed in Area of Shultz's Hotel

March 05, 1988|KENNETH FREED | Times Staff Writer

JERUSALEM — A car laden with TNT, which police said was evidently linked to the visit of Secretary of State George P. Shultz, was found Friday near the hotel where Shultz was staying. The explosives were disarmed without incident, and police said the secretary was never in danger.

The incident occurred as the Israeli military banned reporters from all major cities on the occupied West Bank in what army spokesmen said was an attempt to prevent a repetition of the violence that erupted when Shultz first arrived here a week ago.

"We hope by preventing foreigners, people from the outside, (from going to the cities) it will help to keep the area calm," said an army spokeswoman who under official rules cannot be named.

Demonstrations Continue

But even though the closing of Nablus, Ramallah, Jenin, Hebron and Bethlehem may have kept reporters from seeing what was happening, the demonstrations and violence did not stop.

Two Palestinians were killed in confrontations with soldiers, and at least nine were injured, according to army and Palestinian sources. At least 78 Palestinians have been killed since the uprising began Dec. 9.

The car bomb was discovered Friday morning when a policeman examined a small, French-made sedan that had been abandoned after hitting a utility pole near the western entrance to Jerusalem. The site is about 300 yards from the Jerusalem Hilton, where Shultz and more than 100 members of his party were staying.

Large Cache of TNT

Police Chief Yosef Yehudai told Israel Radio that "the officer noted something irregular . . . a sapper was called in and he discovered that the vehicle in question was a car bomb containing dozens of kilograms of TNT."

Yehudai said it was assumed that the car was linked to the Shultz visit. Although the car was not on the route Shultz would have taken to the offices where he met with Israeli government leaders, it was near the road his motorcade later used to get to the Tel Aviv airport for his afternoon flight to Syria and Egypt and then on to Washington.

Yehudai was asked if the bomb was a sophisticated device, and he replied, "I can say that it was a powerful device, a device which would have caused great damage had it exploded."

A police spokesman said the car was registered to a Tel Aviv resident who apparently sold it a few days ago. He said it was not clear whether the car had been purposely left against the pole or had been abandoned because of the apparent accident.

Car Bomb Alert Issued

It was the second straight day of incidents involving car bombs. On Thursday, explosives packed into a vehicle blew up in the Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Sava. No one was hurt, and there was no significant property damage. On Friday, police asked radio stations to urge the public to be alert for such car bombs.

Local military commanders have closed areas to journalists on a number of occasions, but the banning of reporters from the five largest West Bank cities was the most significant restriction on the press since the outbreak of the uprising.

In the previous closures, reporters were often able to circumvent the roadblocks and enter restricted areas via other routes. But on Friday troops set up barricades and held identity checks at strategic points far from the closed cities.

Journalists' Travel Curbed

It not only shut down the cities but prevented journalists from driving through major sections of the West Bank and effectively prevented them from seeing what was happening in the territory.

Reporters trying to drive north from Jerusalem were stopped about five miles short of Ramallah on the road that continues on to Nablus and Jenin, putting off limits virtually the entire area in between.

As a result of reports in the foreign press, notably a television news film showing four Israeli soldiers brutalizing two handcuffed Palestinians, several right-wing members of the government have called for banning reporters permanently from the West Bank and Gaza Strip on grounds that press coverage was causing violence and prejudicing world opinion against Israel.

Restrictions Temporary

An army spokeswoman said the restrictions were only temporary and based on "information we got that there would be violent demonstrations following (Friday midday Muslim) prayers."

All five cities were open late in the day, although several Palestinian refugee camps and smaller towns and villages were placed under a curfew. No major areas of the Gaza Strip were officially placed off limits, but several curfews were in effect Friday night and local residents of Gaza City told the Palestine Press Service that soldiers had stopped them from attending prayers.

The army spokeswoman said there were no plans for further closures of major occupied areas but added that it was up to local field commanders to decide.

She said the decision to close the cities grew out of the "good experience" the army had last week in imposing calm on Nablus, the West Bank's largest city, when the press was kept out.

'Cities Were Very Quiet'

"The cities were very quiet today," she said of the five that were closed to the press.

However, many rural areas and smaller communities were far from quiet. In the village of Al Khader, near Bethlehem, Mohammed Ahmed Salah, 19, was killed when soldiers opened fire on a group of demonstrators army spokesmen said were trying to close the main road.

The other death came at Arraba, a village in the north of the West Bank between Nablus and Jenin. The victim was not immediately identified, but military sources said he was shot by soldiers whose jeep had been stopped at a roadblock and attacked by a "violent mob of hundreds."

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