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>Israel Faxx
>JN April 15, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 67

Ross Heads for the Middle East

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is sending negotiator Dennis Ross tonight to the Middle East to see Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an effort to get Middle East peace talks back on track. As the next step in the American effort to revive peace talks, Albright says Ross will continue in the Middle East the talks begun here last week with the Israelis and Palestinians.


Insurance Companies Pressured to Settle Holocaust Claims

By Max Ruston (VOA-New York)

A law firm in New York is threatening to step up pressure on several of Europe's largest insurance companies to settle unresolved claims from victims of the Holocaust. The firm believes several of the insurance companies colluded with Nazi authorities to profit from World War 2 atrocities.

New York lawyer Ed Fagan says some of Europe's largest insurance companies are trying to avoid facing up to their past mistakes -- particularly those allegedly committed during the World War 2 period. Fagan represents about 70 Holocaust survivors and their relatives with unresolved claims against these insurance companies, totaling about $7 billion.

At a news conference, Fagan criticized the insurance companies for rejecting the claims with what he described as a variety of excuses. "Any company that wants to continue to hide behind these defenses will be dealt with very severely, because we will push this case both here and in Europe."

The lawsuit filed two weeks ago against seven companies, based in Austria, Germany, Italy and other countries, after most of the plaintiffs' requests for assistance were rejected. One of the companies named in the suit, Allianz Lebenversicherung of Germany, has promised a full investigation of the charges. Most of the others have remained silent.

The suit follows a similar case last year, also involving Fagan, aimed at forcing Swiss banks to turn over assets of secret accounts claimed by Holocaust victims and their relatives. Fagan says the case against European insurance companies is not related to the earlier legal action. And he says it is not a case involving only Jewish people.

"For those of you that happen to believe this is just a Jewish question, I am here to tell you this is not a Jewish issue, this is a global issue that affects all people and all races and everyone who was discriminated against by the Nazis."

Several of the companies charges in the legal action say they already paid the amounts due on the insurance policies involved in the claims. Others say they do not have any records of policies belonging to the claimants or their relatives.


Sticks, Stones and Fire Bombs Punctuate Hebron

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Small-scale clashes continued in Hebron Monday between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli troops. This comes as efforts continue to arrange a meeting between the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, and the Israeli foreign minister, David Levy.

The throwing of stones and fire bombs by Palestinian youths in Hebron has become a daily ritual during the last 10 days. But other parts of the West Bank have been relatively quiet, and Israel's decision to allow thousands of Palestinians to return to work in Israel has been implemented smoothly.

Israeli and Palestinian security forces are cooperating more than they were when the current crisis began a month ago, but peace talks remain suspended. The Palestinians say they can not resume implementation of the interim agreement, or begin talks on a final peace settlement until Israel stops building in east Jerusalem and in West Bank settlements. Israel says it will not stop.


Priebke Stands Trial for a Second Time

By Peggy Polk (VOA-Rome)

Former Nazi SS Capt. Erich Priebke has gone on trial in Rome for the second time for his role in a World War 2 massacre. This time he will be tried along with another ex-officer implicated in the killings.

At the opening session, the military court agreed to a prosecution request to try former SS Maj. Karl Hass, along with Priebke. Both are accused of participating in the 1944 massacre of 335 men and boys in the Ardeatine Caves near the Catacombs in reprisal for a partisan attack that left 33 German troops dead on a Rome street the previous day.

Priebke, 83, and Hass, 84, contend they would have been executed themselves if they had refused to take part in the massacre.

In his first trial last August, a military court found Priebke guilty of murder, but it cleared him of the aggravating circumstances of premeditation and cruelty needed to override a 30-year statute of limitations.
Amidst an uproar over Priebke's release, Italian authorities re-arrested him, and an appeals court ordered a new trial. Priebke was extradited to Italy from Argentina, where he had been found living under his own name. Hass returned to Italy from Switzerland as a prosecution witness and was charged after admitting his role in the killings.


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