Fear and tension mount in Jerusalem


JERUSALEM -- The clientele at the Krav gun shop and shooting range in Jerusalem has grown more numerous and more demanding, a measure of the fear and tension that have gripped the city over the past three weeks.

Israeli men came in yesterday to trade their small-caliber weapons for something heavier. Women came to take up pistols for the first time in their lives. Young workers considered renewing a daily familiarity with guns they thought they had left behind with their army service.

For Palestinians, too, protection is much on their minds, although they are prohibited by law from buying guns. So residents in Arab neighborhoods and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are shuttering windows and staying indoors for fear of reprisal attacks.

Revenge is on the minds of Israelis and Palestinians alike: stabbings, beatings, roving bands of vigilante groups, threatening declarations from underground groups, police patrols -- all are on the rise. Ever since the police killed 21 Palestinian rioters on the Temple Mount earlier this month, Jerusalem has been splitting at the seams.

"No one knows how long this will go on," Shalom Uziel, manager of the Krav shop, said. "But people feel they must protect themselves."

Israel's leaders are forecasting that the fever will pass -- some say sooner, some later. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir estimates that Jerusalem will return to a normal but still tense state of affairs in a few days' time, while Defense Minister Moshe Arens expects it to take a few months.

There is no budging from an unwillingness to open peace talks with Palestinians, since in the government view Palestinian violence is innate and hysterical.

"What prevails among them," Arens said, "are the fanatic and brutal drives, the lack of respect for human lives, which is typical not only for some of the Palestinian population in the territories but also for some of the Arab countries."

Palestinian analysts also believe the violence will subside. There is no tactical advantage, they say, to the risks of escalation of the Arab uprising, especially because the spotlight could shift suddenly to the Kuwait crisis.

Yet of the many explosions of civil violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the past three years, this has been the longest and most bitter.

Wednesday, a 39-year-old Palestinian died of a beating at the hands of Israelis who caught him Tuesday in the act of stabbing two women soldiers near Haifa. The women were both hospitalized, one with a punctured lung.

Meanwhile, someone representing a shadowy group called "Eye for an Eye" telephoned television and radio stations to claim responsibility for the ambush shooting death of a Palestinian laborer. No arrests have been made; policemen and witnesses say that Israeli civilians shot the Palestinian and three companions from a moving vehicle.

Defense Minister Arens called for an end to the revenge and the vigilante attacks.

"I call on the entire Israeli population, Jew and Arab, to avoid these acts," he said. "They break the law; they are against the interests of the state of Israel. There are security forces to deal with the people endangering our lives."

Wednesday, all was quiet. Palestinians were barred from entering Israel from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. In Tel Aviv, Palestinians who customarily sleep in the city to avoid returning home from work each day were routed from their hiding places and sent to the territories.

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