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>PD Dec. 19, 1994, V2, #234

Israeli Students Lose Out on Biblical Sightseeing

Because of security considerations, the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Israeli Police have forbidden schools to take children on trips to some areas north of Jerusalem, to Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, and to the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Saudis, Syrians and Egyptians Meet

By Kim Reid (Cairo)

Leaders from Saudi Arabia and Syria are meeting in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. No one is quite sure what the president intends to discuss with Syrian leader Hafez el-Assad and Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, but Egyptian officials say the topic is Arab unity and reconciliation.

Western diplomats say Syria and Egypt's concern over a lack of Arab unity has more to do with a feeling that they have been left out of the peace process. Some Arab countries have been making diplomatic overtures to Israel and tentative moves toward open trade without consulting Syria or Egypt.

Jordan was the first to do so. It signed a peace treaty without consulting either Egypt or Syria.

There have also been moves in the Arab League here in Cairo to discuss lifting the primary boycott against Israel. Lesser boycotts have already been removed, allowing Arab countries to buy products from business who also do business with Israel.

Now Saudi Arabia's religious authorities have been quoted in local newspapers saying that peace with Israel would be acceptable by Muslim standards.

Diplomats here say the Syrian and Egyptian leaders may tell Saudi Arabia's King Fahd that peace with Israel is OK, but only after Syria cuts its own deal.

Egypt's president says such a deal may crystalize in 1995. He told Kuwait's Al-Watan newspaper that Syria and Israel are serious about the peace process.

Egyptian officials say the leaders may also be joined by Libya's Muamar Qadafi.

Sinai Archaeological Treasures Returned

By Patricia Golan (Jerusalem)

Israel has handed back to Egypt the last of the archeological finds it excavated during its 15-year occupation of the Sinai peninsula. This is the first time a state has returned so many antiquities to their country of origin after being taken or excavated.

The 800 cartons being shipped back to Egypt contain artifacts uncovered by Israeli archaeologists during the Israeli occupation of the Sinai -- the desert peninsula which links Africa and Asia, and which for centuries lay on the crossroads of ancient civilizations. The artifacts include pottery, glass objects, jewelry, flint stones and hundreds of gold and silver coins.

A spokesman for the Israeli Antiquities Authority says the agreement to return the artifacts was reached two years ago after years of negotiations following the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty.

The head of the Egyptian Supreme Archeological Council, Muhammad Abdel-Halim Noureddin, led a 12-member delegation to Israel for the handing-over ceremony, which was held in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem. Noureddin said Egypt was hoping to persuade other countries to return Egyptian artifacts -- the British Museum alone has a considerable Egyptian collection.

Israel has asked the Egyptian authorities to lend back those artifacts which have a specifically Jewish character, such as third century byzantine oil lamps with Hebrew inscriptions.

Israeli archaeologists at the ceremony said Israeli scientists should be given credit for research they did following the excavations. Head Egyptian archeologist Noureddin said Egyptian archaeologists are ready to cooperate with their Israeli colleagues in the future. What you published is in your name, he said, what we publish will be in our name, and perhaps some day we'll publish together.

PLO Holds Emergency Meeting on Efrat's Expansion

By Patricia Golan (Jerusalem)

Yasir Arafat has called an emergency meeting of his Palestinian self-rule authority to discuss the expansion of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. The Israeli government says it is launching an investigation into the disputed expansion.

The controversy erupted last week when bulldozers from the Jewish settlement of Efrat, in the West Bank near Bethlehem, went in to prepare a hillside site for construction. The site adjoins the Arab village of El-Khader, and residents of the village say the land is theirs and that they have proof of ownership. Officials in efrat say they were given the land by the Israeli government in 1983, a claim Israeli military authorities in the West Bank have so far upheld.

Palestinians and Israeli peace activists have been holding daily protests at the site. On Tuesday, Israeli security forces forcibly removed demonstrators, arresting about 50 of them.

The land dispute has become a test of the settlement freeze imposed by the Israeli government as part of the 1993 self-rule agreement with the Palestinians. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres earlier promised Arafat that Israel would take action to calm the atmosphere. Israeli officials say they are waiting for a ruling by the attorney general on the legal aspects of the case, but meanwhile bulldozers at the site continue working to clear the land.

Sinai-Gaza Tunnels Supply Terrorists

Terrorist organizations in Gaza are continuing to receive a supply of arms and ammunition via underground passageways connecting the autonomous area with Egypt. Security sources report that these underground passageways are also being used to bring in mortars and possibly Katyushya missile launchers.

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