Israeli vigilantes on a rampage smashed car and shop windows of Arabs in this occupied West Bank town late last night Israeli authorities arrested four settlers from a Jewish out-post one mile north of here just after midnight.
Arab anger was intense and the Israeli Army moved in reinforcements. Brig. Gen. Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, commander of the occupying forces, announced the arrests and promised stern measures against the Israeli stone-throwers.
At the same time, the general warned the mayors of nearby Arab towns against retaliatory measures. Earlier in the day, some of the Arab mayors had vowed revenge.
Vigilantes believed to be members of the extremist Gush Emunim movement, throwing stones and wielding hammers, smashed the windshields of about 120 vehicles.
Members of the Gush Emunim settlements of Beit El and Ofra told reporters that the onslaught was in retaliation for the stoning of an Israeli bus last night and earlier incidents.
On Monday, a hand grenade allegedly was thrown at an Israeli bus near the village of Ein Ya-brud, near Ofra, but it failed to explode. A private Israeli car was fired upon near Nablus, 20 miles north of here and numerous stone-throwing attacks have been reported at the Palestinian refugee campe just north of here.
Arab leaders say the incidents are the acts of children over whom they have no control. The Israeli authorities charge that the adult leadership is hiding behind the youths and may even be encouraging them because the incidents achieve a political goal: showing that Arab-Jewish coexistence, as advocated by the Israeli settlers, is untenable.
The Peace Now movement and otehr Israelis who oppose the Gush Emunim settlement argued today that these events -- especially what one termed the "hot-headed and irresponsible" acts of last night -- only strengthen Arab extremism and refute the settlers' claim.
A Gush Emunim settler, however, told journalists that the window smashing was to "teach the Arabs a lesson." Settlers say they have to act because the Israeli authorities seem unable to stop the attacks on Israeli vehicles.