Israel declared today that its crackdown on protests by West Bank Palestinian nationalists will continue and that it will tolerate no disturbance of law and order.
The sharp warning from the Israeli Cabinet came as security forces braced for possible unrest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to coincide with demonstrations by Arabs living inside Israel to mark Land Day, a commemoration of a 1976 protest against land expropriation in which six Arabs died.
The Cabinet, after hearing an account of last week's West Bank disturbances in which six Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed, said the government is determined to maintain order in the occupied territories.
"Arab residents of Judea and Samaria the biblical names for the West Bank and the Gaza district who observe the law and keep the peace will be guaranteed their safety and accorded all possible help. No act of violence or disturbance of the peace or order will be tolerated," the Cabinet statement said.
In Washington, Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. said that, despite the Israeli crackdown, he believed that Prime Minister Menachem Begin's government plans to go through with its commitment to a five-year period of autonomous self-government for the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "I'm optimistic they will be as good as their word," Haig said.
Haig, interviewed on "Meet the Press" (NBC, WRC), said that while events in the West Bank "do not comfort us," it is "important to keep the issue in proper perspective" and maintain a "sense of objectivity."
Meanwhile, scattered disturbances continued today on the West Bank to protest the dismissal of three Palestinian mayors by the occupation government. Three Palestinians were wounded, two of them seriously, when an Israeli Army patrol in the village of Yabad, near Jenin, opened fire after being attacked by youths with knives and molotov cocktails, according to the Army command.
Protesters in Nablus, Ramallah and Beit Sahur threw stones at Israeli soldiers and raised the Palestinian flag, while partial strikes continued in some West Bank towns for the 10th day.
Security forces arrested three members of the Nablus town council for encouraging protests. The Army also warned all municipal employes of Nablus that if they do not return to work under the Israeli officials who were appointed to replace deposed mayor Bassam Shaka, they will be subject to arrest and up to six months in prison.
In other steps apparently designed to head off further protests, authorities banned distribution in the West Bank of the three Arabic-language daily newspapers published in East Jerusalem and ordered Shaka to remain in his home until disturbances cease. An Army command spokesman said that Shaka, one of the three mayors removed from office over the last two weeks for allegedly inciting protests, was not technically under house arrest but also was not free to leave his home.
Similarly, the Army ordered deposed Ramallah mayor Karim Khalaf, who also was removed Thursday, to remain in Jericho where he has a summer home. Khalaf said officials ordered him to move to Jericho yesterday, saying they sought to keep him from meeting members of Ramallah's city council and "causing trouble." He denied charges that he attempted to organize protests.
In an interview in Jericho today, Khalaf accused the military government of deliberately provoking West Bank violence March 18--by dismissing El Bireh Mayor Ibrahim Tawil--as a means of justifying the dismissals of himself and Shaka.
The Ramallah mayor said he and members of his family were being "harassed" by security forces. He said that several days before his dismissal, Israeli soldiers posted a sign at the entrance to a Jericho restaurant owned by his family declaring it "off limits" to Israeli military personnel. An Army command spokesman said he had no information on the matter.
Security forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and in the predominantly Arab towns of the Galilee region of Israel have been alerted for expected demonstrations Tuesday, officials said.
The pro-Communist Committee for the Defense of Arab Lands has called for a one-day strike of the 500,000 Arabs who live in Israel proper and has broadened this year's protest to include Israel's policies in the West Bank.
Begin's Arab affairs adviser, Benjamin Gur-Areyh, called on Israeli Arabs not to participate in the protest, saying, "We must take care that maybe some provocateurs from the extremists will try to make a confrontation between security forces and their people. We will act according to the law, and will act firmly."