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>Israel Faxx
>JN March 18, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 47

Agreement Reached on Palestinian Airport

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have reached agreement on the first regular use of the new airport in Gaza -- by the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, himself. But other issues remain in dispute as Israeli bulldozers and Palestinian protesters are poised for battle over a Jerusalem hilltop.

The agreement on Arafat's use of the airport came at a one-hour meeting between senior officials from both sides in Tel Aviv. The issue had apparently been settled Sunday night in a telephone conversation involving Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan's King Hussein, who was in Netanyahu's office at the time. Officials say agreement is near on broader use of the airport with joint Israeli/Palestinian security arrangements.

But that one positive development was overshadowed Monday by Israeli bulldozers parked and ready at locations near a disputed hill in east Jerusalem, waiting for orders to begin construction of a new Jewish neighborhood. Palestinian protesters were waiting in a tent nearby. The protesters say they will try to block the bulldozers with their bodies. Israeli soldiers took up positions watching the protesters watch the hill.

Israel's defense minister has reinforced troops throughout Gaza and the West Bank, and Palestinian hospitals are preparing for large numbers of wounded, in case there are widespread and potentially violent demonstrations when the building starts.

Netanyahu says that will be this week, but he will not say exactly when. A change in Israel's policy might be the only way to avoid violence -- but Israel says there will be no change. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, including the disputed hill, to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Israel and the Palestinians missed the deadline Monday for starting talks on statehood and the rest of the remaining issues to be decided within two years.

But Palestinian and Israeli officials were at least talking Monday after a week-long freeze caused by Palestinian anger of Israel's construction plan, and its offer to hand over what the Palestinians consider too little territory in the next planned phase of West Bank withdrawal. The partial thaw in relations was helped by Sunday's visit to Israel by King Hussein, who met with the families of the seven schoolgirls killed by a Jordanian soldier last week, and held talks with Netanyahu.

Flatow Sues Iran for Daughter's Murder

By Maxim Kniazkov (VOA-Washington)

An unusual lawsuit pending before a federal court in Washington is blaming Iran for the death of an American religion student, Alisa

Flatow. The family of the slain 20-year-old girl is seeking to deter Tehran from sponsoring terrorism.

Tragedy struck the home of lawyer Steven Flatow of West Orange, N.J. On a chilly April night in 1995. He says the sudden realization that he will never see his daughter alive again has probably changed his life forever.

"Alisa took some time off from her studies in the states to study in Israel. She was on her sixth trip to Israel when she was on her way to a resort in the Gaza Strip, and her bus was rammed by a van which was loaded with dynamite. The Islamic Jihad subsequently took credit for the attack, which killed her and seven other passengers."

It was one of a series of bombings that swept Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in the wake of the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. The agreement paved the way for Palestinian self-rule in the occupied territories. But it also contained the recognition of Israel's right to exist by the Palestine Liberation organization, a commitment that infuriated Muslim militants, including Islamic Jihad.

Thus, Alisa Flatow became an innocent victim of a political fight that her father believes was not hers. The Flatow family blames Iran, in part, for allegedly supporting terrorist groups in the Middle East, including the Islamic Jihad organization -- which claimed responsibility for the bombing that killed Alisa Flatow. And the Flatows have launched what could be called an international crusade aimed at stopping such aid.

Steven Perles, the Washington lawyer who filed the lawsuit on the family's behalf, explains. "The Flatow family is holding Iran financially accountable, under a new federal statute which permits suits against the state-sponsors of terrorism overseas whose activities result in the death of a United States national."

Perles says Alisa's father wants, first and foremost, to help bring these activities to an end. "The real objective here is not the collection of revenue for revenue's sake. No amount of money is going to bring back his daughter. However, if he is successful in obtaining a large award, that award will have a deterrent effect on the conduct of terrorist states."

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