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>Israel Faxx
>JN March 25, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 52

Sharon: Top PA Officials Smuggling Arms

Minister Ariel Sharon claims that Yasir Arafat himself is directly involved in smuggling ammunition into the Palestinian autonomy, taking advantage of the fact that Israel does not check his car at the border crossings. "Other top PA figures act in a similar fashion, and," Sharon said, "in this way the Palestinian Authority is arming itself with anti-tank missiles, ground-to-air missiles, and possibly even katyushas."

Rachel's Tomb Scene of Fire Fight

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli and Palestinian leaders are engaged in a bitter dispute over which side is responsible for the recent suicide bombing in Tel Aviv and weekend riots in the West Bank city of Hebron. Violence erupted again Monday in the streets of Bethlehem and outside Rachel's Tomb.

Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at hundreds of Palestinians who threw stones and gasoline bombs at soldiers guarding the ancient site outside Bethlehem. The violence comes during a security alert following a suicide bombing Friday in Tel Aviv in which a Muslim militant killed three Israelis and wounded dozens more.

The Israelis and Palestinians are accusing each other of inciting violence. Israel stopped short of suspending talks with the PLO over the bombing, but the Israeli government is demanding that Palestinian Authority head Yasir Arafat crack down on Muslim militants, which a Palestinian security official has rejected. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blames Arafat for giving Islamic militants the "green light" to launch attacks against Israeli civilians.

In an unusual briefing to the press, the head of Israel's military intelligence, Moshe Yaalon warned that Israel will face more terrorism in the coming days unless Arafat makes it clear to Islamic militant groups that they no longer have his tacit approval to carry out attacks.

"Even now after the attack there is no activity of the Palestinian Authority's security forces against these organizations whose activists have been released from Palestinian prisons beginning last July. Consequently the terrorist groups think they have a green light from the chairman of the Palestinian Authority to commit terrorist attacks."

Israeli officials are also saying that Palestinian Authority preventive security chief Jebril Rajoub instigated the riots that rocked Hebron in the last few days. Rajoub calls the charges irresponsible nonsense.

The Palestinians reject all Israel's accusations, blaming Israel's decision to go ahead with construction of a Jewish settlement in disputed east Jerusalem for the upsurge in violence.

Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Netanyahu's settlement building is encouraging militants and killing peace.

Both sides are setting conditions for continuing talks which the other side finds unacceptable. After Friday's attack, Israel handed the Palestinians a list of 25 Islamic militants it demanded to have re-arrested. Palestinians regard this as shameful.

On Monday, work resumed on the new settlement on the outskirts of Jerusalem. As long as the work goes on, Palestinians say there is nothing to talk about.

Ashrawi: Peace Process in Jeopardy

By Douglas Roberts (VOA-Geneva)

Palestinian self-rule official, Hanan Ashrawi, lashed out at the Israeli government Monday, in a speech to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Ashrawi said the new Israeli settlement now under construction in east Jerusalem has placed the peace process in grave jeopardy.

Ashrawi depicted the new settlement as an attempt to extract Jerusalem from "the heart of Palestine" and predetermine the final outcome of the now moribund peace talks. She charged that what she called the extremist policies of the Netanyahu government are breeding extremism among the Palestinians, leaving the Middle East peace process in one of its most difficult crises.

"And it is not just a crisis in terms of the negotiations or the talks. The crisis is much more significant in that it deals with reality on the ground, with changes that are taking place that might create facts which could be irreversible and which could render the prospects of peace entirely unattainable."

At a news conference after Monday's speech, the Palestinian official said outside intervention is needed to rescue the peace process. And she indicated the Palestinian leadership is expecting a move by the United States.

She was critical of American actions since the Jerusalem settlement plan was announced. Washington has twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions condemning the Israeli move.

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