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Assassinated Mayor Buried

March 3, 1986

NABLUS, Occupied West Bank (AP) _ A human wave of 50,000 mourning Palestinians carried the body of assassinated Mayor Zafer al-Masri through his city Monday in one of the largest demonstrations of support for the PLO ever held in the Israeli- occupied West Bank.

Hours before the funeral, an Israeli soldier shot and killed a 57-year-old Palestinian in the nearby Balata refugee camp and wounded the man’s 17 year- old son during a demonstration to protest al-Masri’s slaying, Israeli military and Palestinian sources said.

The sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified, said the man tried to attack an Israeli soldier attempting to break up the demonstration.

The thousands of men and youths, some of them weeping, chanted slogans as they bore the body to a martyr’s tomb in the courtyard of a blue-domed mosque.

Al-Masri, 44, a businessman named by Israel as mayor last December, was shot Sunday outside his office by an assailant who escaped into the crowded market. Two pro-Syrian Palestinian groups have claimed responsibility for the assassination.

Al-Masri’s coffin, draped in the red, black, green and white Palestinian flag that Israel has banned in the West Bank, was lifted above the heads of the mourners. In the courtyard of a mosque built by his wealty and powerful clan, al-Masri’s shrouded body was removed from the coffin and passed hand- over-hand into a cinder-block tomb.

The thousands who turned out for the funeral made clear their support for the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Israel has branded a ″terrorist organization.″

Some mourners shouted slogans against President Hafez Assad of Syria. Others focused their anger on Jordan’s King Hussein for breaking his year-old accord with the PLO to work toward negotiations with Israel.

″PLO, Yes, King Hussein, No 3/8″ chanted some mourners. Al Masri supported Arafat, but also was considered a moderate who was friendly toward Jordan.

″The people believe Syria is behind this,″ said car dealer Hanna Ghateet. He said the al-Masri family, to which he is related, has vowed ″to get revenge for Zafer’s blood.″

Syria has opposed the cooperation between Jordan and the PLO.

Two pro-Syrian Palestinian groups, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Abu Nidal group, claimed responsibility for the assassination. Both hard-line groups branded al-Masri a traitor and a collaborator with Israel.

In Jordan, King Hussein called al-Masri ″a martyr of the Palestinian and Arab cause.″

The slaying appeared to be a blow to an Israeli plan to give Palestinians more control over local affairs in the territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.

Israeli troops set up roadblocks outside Nablus, the West Bank’s largest city with 80,000 people, but stayed out of the way during the two-hour funeral procession. Army commanders were seen watching through binoculars from a distant rooftop.

Only men attended the funeral, but women and children leaned from doorways and windows to watch the procession.

The Israelis put the city under a night-long curfew Sunday in a manhunt for al-Masri’s killer, but Prime Minister Shimon Peres told a Parliament committee Monday that Israel still did not know who he was.

The slaying was an apparent warning to West Bank moderates against accepting Peres’ Feb. 12 plan offering more authority to the Palestinians in local affairs.

The appointment of al-Masri, the uncle of Foreign Minister Taher al-Masri of Jordan, was seen as a test of naming other mayors in three Palestinian cities.

Jamil Tarifi, one of the list of candidates, told The Associated Press that two of the proposed mayors had withdrawn their names and that he was reconsidering the offer.

Israel radio said one candidate, Nadim Zaro, fled the West Bank for Jordan. ″We must not be afraid now. If we are afraid we will lose our city,″ said Mrs. Wahid al-Masri, expressing hope that another town leader would take the place of her slain brother-in-law. ″We see it now as a kind of challenge,″ she told a reporter in her home.

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