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                             ISRAEL
                              FAXX

Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      April 10, 1995, V3, #65
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Suicide Bombers Attack Gaza Israel Settlement

By Patricia Golan (Jerusalem) & Deborah Tate (Los Angeles)

In the PLO-ruled Gaza Strip, suspected Islamic suicide bombers killed at least seven Israelis and wounded about 45 in two attacks near Jewish settlements. The Islamic Jihad organization has claimed responsibility, but Israeli security sources believe it is more likely that another radical Islamic group, Hamas, carried out the attacks.

In the first attack, an explosives-laden truck rammed into an Israeli civilian bus on the highway near Kfar Darom -- an isolated Jewish settlement in the center of the Gaza Strip. An hour later, another booby-trapped car smashed into a jeep carrying Israeli troops near the neighboring Jewish settlement of Netzarim, wounding several soldiers. This, too, appeared to be a suicide bombing.

The Israeli army pulled out of the Gaza Strip last May, turning over control to the PLO, except for the areas where some 5,000 Jewish settlers live. Since the Israeli-PLO peace accord was signed in September 1993, scores of Israelis have been killed by suicide bombings carried out by radical Islamic groups bent on undermining the peace process. The suicide bombings have seriously eroded Israeli support for the agreement with the PLO on Palestinian self-rule.

Yasir Arafat, head of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the latest attacks, but his attempts to curb Islamic radicals have met with only limited success. Sunday's attacks will certainly increase Israeli pressure on Arafat to take more drastic action.

Israelis had been on high alert expecting some sort of attack following last Sunday's mysterious explosion in a Gaza City apartment in which several Hamas activists were killed. The Palestinian Authority and Israel say the blast was caused by an accident in a Hamas bomb factory, but the group has blamed Israel for the explosion.

President Clinton says the suicide bombings must not be allowed to derail the Middle East peace process. Clinton made his comments during a speech to the Jewish Federation in Los Angeles. He expressed his condolences to the government and the people of Israel as he condemned the violence and those responsible.

"The enemies of peace have sought to abuse the opportunity peace presents, to kill it, to kill hope, to kill all possibility of a normal life, for the people of Israel, the Palestinians who are struggling to do the right thing there, and the people throughout the Middle East who can see a permanent and lasting peace within their grasp."

Live to Age 120...Not Really!

By Edward Yeranian (Lebanon)

Although France's Jean Clament at 120 years old was recently hailed as the world's oldest living person, one man from Lebanon claims to be even older. Ali Hussein Muhammed, according to his Lebanese ID card, is 133 years old.

High in the mountains of northern Lebanon, where the air is pure and nature pristine, lives a man who villagers say is the oldest living human being on earth. At 133 years of age, Muhammed was born in 1862, when Lebanon was a province of the Ottoman Empire.

Recent ceremonies marking the 120th birthday of France's Jean Clament give Ali Hussein Muhammed a chuckle. "She could just about be my daughter," says Ali, his voice raspy from old age, but his sense of humor still lively.

The only problem with Ali's claim to fame is that record-keeping did not begin in many parts of Lebanon until the French census of 1932. Nonetheless, villagers from Qoniya -- this picturesque mountain hamlet of 200 inhabitants, where Christians and Muslims live side by side -- have no doubt about Ali's venerable age.

Hajji Zeynab, hard of hearing and frail, is herself well over 100 years of age. She insists that Ali was already a young man when he carried her on his back during her childhood.

Mother Khalil, who is now in her 90s, also thinks that Ali is quite old. "He has certainly got to be at least as old as my late father," she says, "and he would have been 130 this year."

Despite his now fragile appearance, Ali was once quite robust. He says he built his own house, carrying the thick cedar beams on his back for miles. By trade, Ali worked as a woodcutter, although he gave up the job some years ago when his eyesight began failing.

Ali's favorite story is undoubtedly one that neighbors have heard many times. He often reminisces about the day he frightened off an entire Turkish patrol by shouting and firing his rifle into a cliff with an echo.

As for his secret to longevity, Ali says he smokes a cigarette now and then, drinks lots of Turkish coffee and eats homemade yogurt. Since he has lost all of his teeth, however, Ali admits he has trouble chewing.

Having a young wife also keeps Ali young, he says. When his first wife Fatmeh died some years ago, Ali remarried a woman 60 years his junior. He now points proudly to several of his 150 descendants.

As for death, Ali says (half tongue-in cheek) "When I reached 100, I prepared to meet my maker. But now, I don't think he wants to see me."

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