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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Oct. 11, 1995, V3, #183
All the News the Big Guys Missed
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Mubarak Meets with Assad in Damascus
By Kim Reid (VOA-Cairo)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak traveled to Damascus Tuesday for
talks with Syrian President Hafez al Assad. Egyptian officials say
the two men discussed the Middle East peace process and Arab
The Egyptian president's visit is intended to jump-start the
flagging peace negotiations between Syria and Israel. Egyptian
Information Minister Safwat Sherif says Mubarak also briefed the
Syrian leader on his talks last month in Washington with the US
Assad boycotted the Washington meeting, which brought together
Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein to witness Israel and the
PLO signing a new agreement, with President Clinton hosting
Diplomats say Assad's absence from the meeting and negative Syrian
news coverage of the accord indicates Syria is not quite ready to
sit at the negotiating table with Israel.
Syria insists on Israel's unconditional withdrawal from the Golan
Heights, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967, before
talks can begin. Lower-level meetings have taken place off and
on at the military attache level.
Israel says it will not withdraw troops and will talk about it
later. It has insisted first on discussing a phased withdrawal
from the Golan, which would include keeping some permanent Israeli
military installations on the strategic plateau. Syria has so far
Mubarak's visit is the first in a series of gentle arm-twistings in
store for Assad. US Secretary of State Warren Christopher is
expected to travel to the Middle East this month in a bid to
revitalize Syrian-Israeli negotiations.
First Withdrawal Takes Place; Terrorists Released
By Al Pessin (VOA-Salfit Village)
Israel made its first small withdrawal under its new peace accord
with the Palestinians Tuesday, handing over an administrative
compound in a village near the West Bank city of Nablus. In Salfit
Village, hundreds of local residents cheered the departure of the
Israeli soldiers who had operated the compound.
It is not an impressive facility. Just a few concrete buildings
with barren offices, windows with no glass, a high fence topped
with rolls of barbed wire. But that did not dampen the enthusiasm
of the several hundred people who turned out -- much of the
village's population -- to cheer the raising of the Palestinian
flag, and jeer the departure of an Israeli colonel and his
In a particularly poignant moment, a young boy smashed a clay pot
next to the last jeep in the convoy -- a symbolic Arab gesture of
good riddance, made upon the departure of an unwanted guest who
stayed too long.
The Israeli colonel, who refused to speak to reporters in English,
said in Hebrew that this is a first step, but only a partial one.
He noted that this office, for now, will not be replaced with
anything and that local residents will have to go to other towns to
find Israeli offices still issuing travel permits and other
The Palestinian Authority took control of the compound in Salfit
on Tuesday, but it will not begin providing administrative
services there for several weeks.
The Palestinian official who received the compound, Ahmed Farres,
said his enjoyment of the moment was somewhat reduced by problems
with prisoner releases on Tuesday. But still, he said, he was
pleased that this aspect of the peace accord is at least starting
to be implemented.
"It's a historic day for Salfit, for the people here, and also for
the Palestinian Authority that we started to receive cities,
villages, towns. To me it seems that the people in Israel and the
Israel government at least are convinced that the period of
occupation is gone, mentally, and they cooperate with us, as
Palestinians, to establish a comprehensive peace."
Half an hour's drive away, in Nablus, Israeli prison officials
released several dozen prisoners into the waiting arms of loved
ones. Most of the prisoners were pleased that the peace accord was
being implemented and all had to sign a non-violence pledge. But
one man who was set free spoke defiantly, just a few meters from
the prison door.
Twenty-nine-year-old Sami Zahran said he does not believe in
the peace process and that resistance should continue as long as
the occupation does. He said prisoner releases are less important
than establishing a Palestinian state.
Hundreds of other prisoners stayed behind, refusing to sign the
non-violence pledge, or being held back by a dispute over the
release of prisoners convicted of criminal offenses, or declining
to be set free to protest Israel's decision not to release four
Palestinian women. Many, many families left the prisons
disappointed on Tuesday.
As darkness fell, the last Israeli jeep left the administrative
compound, chased down the street by a few stones thrown by
Palestinian youths, just, it seemed, for old time's sake.
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