Deported West Bank mayors Fahd Kawasme of Hebron and Mohammed Milhem of Halhoul, on their arrival here today, vowed to return to their homes by peace or war and said that their expulsions following yesterday's West Bank violence was aimed at forcing through the implementation of Israeli and Egyptian sponsored autonomy there.
Speaking to a press conference here shortly after their nine-hour journey from Hebron to Beirut by helicopter, Israeli jeep and Lebanese taxi across the border into southern Lebanon, the mayors said the Israeli move would only enhance the resolve of their people to fend off "the oppressive policies of the occupation." With them was Sheik Rajib Tamimi, who was also expelled.
"They [the Israelis] are inviting us to autonomy as if inviting up to an empty pot -- but there is nothing to eat," Milhem said.
"Go back to your political dictionaries and you will find out that autonomy rule means the rule of a minority within a state; we are not a minority within a state. We reject autonomy because it is a perpetuation and legitimization of the occupation."
The Palestinian leaders said their expulsion came after being taken into custody by Israeli officers, who tricked them by saying the military governor and Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman were waiting to see them. They said they were forced to wear black hoods as the Israelis escorted them into Lebanon.
Yaser Abed Rabbo, the official spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization, opened the press conference by calling for a general strike starting tommorrow by Palestinians living outside Israel.
He exhorted Palestinians to stage all-out protest against the "invading Zionist settlers" and to rise up in revolt against settlement policies and the proposed autonomy rule which limits Arabs in Israel to local administrative powers.
Abed Rabbo said the PLO will arrange to lodge an urgent complaint to the U.N. Security Council about the deportations.
In New York, Reuter reported, U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim said today that yesterday's West Bank violence in which five Jewish youths were killed, "illustrates once again the imperative need for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement in the Middle East without which the basic causes of tension and conflict in the area will persist.
UPI reported from Kuwait that PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who arrived there for talks with Kuwaiti leaders, praised the guerrilla ambush in Hebron and said a "popular revolution" is taking place in the West Bank.