The death of Tirza Porat, the daughter of one of the first West Bank Jewish settlers, has particularly inflamed rightist Israeli opinion, and the army has responded with unprecedented harshness although it has not yet completed its investigation of the incident.
Rabin and senior army officers met for two hours Monday with Jewish settlement leaders in the wake of charges the day before that the military was trying to shift the blame for the Beita incident away from the Arabs.
Late last week, the army destroyed 14 houses in Beita said to have been inhabited by leaders of the attack. On Sunday, even as the Israeli High Court issued a temporary injunction against more such demolitions, troops uprooted hundreds of olive trees on more than seven acres of land near the village.
On Monday, the High Court, acting on a complaint by the Assn. for Civil Rights in Israel, which charged that the army had acted "hastily and drastically," said the military must give at least 48 hours' notice before destroying any more Beita homes. The owners of the houses already destroyed were given as little as 30 minutes notice.
In an interview on Israel Radio, the deputy army chief of staff, Gen. Ehud Barak, defended the army action, although he conceded that the home of one man who turned out to be innocent was destroyed by mistake.
"Partial results (of the army investigation) were clear enough with regard to some of the participants in the attack on the group of youngsters, and the houses of some of these people have been demolished," Barak said. He said the man whose house was wrongly destroyed will be compensated.
Bullet Fired From M-16
Tirza was first reported to have been stoned to death by angry Beita villagers, but officials said later that a pathological examination proved she had died from a gunshot wound in the head. The fatal bullet was fired from the M-16 rifle carried by one of the two Israeli guards on the outing, a preliminary army report said.
On the basis of accounts given by the surviving youngsters, settlers dispute the army finding and charge that the girl as well as three of the Palestinians were shot by an unidentified Arab gunman. A final army report on the incident is expected later this week.
The six Beita villagers and six other West Bank and Gaza residents who were served with deportation orders Monday may appeal to a military judge and then to the Israel High Court.