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>Israel Faxx
>PD Dec. 2, 1994, V2, #216

Ax Murderer's Victim Buried

Several thousand people attended Thursday's funeral for IDF Sergeant Liat Gabai, 19, who was killed Wednesday in a terrorist attack in Afula. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said the terrorist who carried out the attack is a member of Hamas, adding that he was imprisoned in Israel from 1989-1991, and in 1993. He said there will be an investigation to determine how the terrorist entered Israel carrying an ax.

Mubarak Confers with Assad

By Laurie Kassman (Cairo)

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was in Damascus Thursday for talks with President Hafez al-Assad on the Middle East peace process. The surprise visit comes just a few days ahead of US Secretary of State Warren Christopher's Mideast shuttle in yet another attempt to get Syrian/Israeli negotiations on track.

After a day of private talks with Mubarak, the Syrian leader told reporters Israeli demands are unreasonable. He did not go into any detail but said Syria prefers to keep things as they are rather than yield to impossible demands.

The hardline remarks come less than a week before Christopher is due in Damascus and Jerusalem for his sixth round of shuttle diplomacy.

Mubarak has been an active mediator in the peace talks. But he firmly backs Syria's insistence on a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights as a condition for peace. Israel wants Syria's commitment first to normalize relations.

Syria's official media has criticized Israel and complains that every time Christopher travels to the region to try to break the deadlock in negotiations, the Israeli leaders spread pessimism and raise tensions. When President Bill Clinton visited Damascus last month, Assad said he was ready for peace but not at any price.

Palestinians Receive More Authority

By Al Pessin (Ramallah)

Israel gave the Palestinian Autonomy Authority control over taxation and health care in the West Bank on Thursday, completing a process designed to prepare the way for full Palestinian autonomy.

The small crowd of officials applauded politely as Israel's military governor for the West Bank shook hands with the Palestinian finance minister, just after they had signed the documents transferring taxation authority. Many officials believe this is the most important of the responsibilities Israel has turned over to the Palestinians. The others are health care, welfare services, education and tourism.

But it is taxation which is supposed to pay for those other activities, eventually replacing the international aid the Palestinian authority now relies on. And taxation is by far the most difficult and controversial of the powers the Palestinians have been given in the West Bank. Most Palestinians refused to pay Israeli taxes, or paid only a minimal amount, and there is considerable skepticism that the Palestinian authority will do any better.

But Palestinian Finance Minister Mohammed Nashashibi was optimistic at Thursday's ceremony. "We have full confidence in our people that they will hurry, and I have today an example, our people will hurry to pay the expenses and our employees are very efficient to collect it in the best way."

Nashashibi says Palestinians will pay their taxes because the money will go for services they want, such as education and health care.

With Thursday's ceremony in Ramallah -- and another for health care in Nablus -- Israel has completed a process called "early empowerment," designed to help the Palestinian authority prepare for full autonomy, and to ease dissatisfaction among many Palestinians as negotiations over full autonomy drag on.

But many Palestinians are not particularly impressed by "early empowerment," especially the radicals who continue to carry out terrorist attacks, but also moderates who are impatient for full autonomy.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resume talks next week in Cairo on how to move the process forward.

German Anti-Semitic Attackers on Trial

By Dagmar Breitenbach (Bonn)

The trial of four young men charged in connection with the March firebombing of a synagogue in the northern German city of Luebeck continued Thursday. Three of the defendants have confessed to having taken part in the attack.

Twenty-five-year-old Stephan Westphal confessed to the Schleswig court Thursday he participated in the attack on the synagogue. But he said he did not throw bottles filled with flammable liquids.

He is the third of the four defendants to confess to the March attack on the Jewish place of worship, the first such incident in Germany since the Third Reich. The other two confessed defendants have also denied throwing gasoline bombs at the synagogue. The four young men, aged between 20 and 25, are charged with arson and five counts of attempted murder.

At the time of the attack, five people were inside the building. They managed to escape unhurt.

Thousands of Germans held marches and vigils after the firebombing, in protest of far-right violence which hit the country after unification in 1990. Most of the violence has been directed against foreigners, but there have also been numerous attacks against Jews and handicapped people.

Peres Meets Pope at Vatican

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met Thursday with Pope John Paul II in Rome. He extended an invitation to the pope to visit Israel.

Following their meeting, Peres said the pope would visit Jerusalem once negotiations on its permanent status have been completed.

"I believe the pope and the Vatican are able to fulfil a major role in the peace process through efforts to end all forms of hate between the three religions," Peres said.

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