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>Israel Faxx
>JN Aug. 8, 1997, Vol. 5, Num. 145

Muslim Leader Justifies Terrorism Against Israel

>By Arutz-7

According to an article in the August 4th issue of the Arab newspaper Al Hiyat, one of the preeminent Muslim religious leaders in Egypt, Sheikh Al-Azhar, said that the laws of Islam do not permit the killing of children, the elderly, or the innocent. The Sheikh pointed out, however, that the prohibition does not apply to the recent suicide attacks - which, he asserted, are a form of self-defense against stealing of land. Al-Azhar alleged that Jewish religious leaders are fanning the flames of oppression of Palestinian Arabs.

Arafat Threatens Israel with Violence

By Douglas Roberts (VOA-Jerusalem)

Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat is warning there will be a new explosion of violence in the West Bank and Gaza unless the Israeli government ends the restrictions imposed on the Palestinians in the wake of last week's suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Arafat's latest diatribe came in an interview with the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot.

He called the Israeli crackdown on the Palestinians tantamount to a declaration of war, comparing the situation to the 1982 Israeli siege of PLO forces in Beirut. Since last week's terrorist attack, the Israeli army has sealed off the West Bank and Gaza, and closed the borders with Jordan and Egypt. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli security forces, and the Israeli treasury has blocked Palestinian customs and tax revenue.

Arafat said the Israeli measures violate previous agreements between the two sides, and are intended to scuttle the peace process. If this situation continues, he said, there will be a giant explosion that no one will be able to stop.

Israeli officials called the remarks inflammatory, and they repeated that the Israeli government has no intention of easing the restrictions until the Palestinian Authority cracks down on the Islamist militants that Israel blames for the suicide bombing. Arafat again denied that the Palestinian Authority was in any way responsible for the attack.

So far, the investigation has produced no conclusive evidence. The two suicide bombers have not been identified, and there is growing speculation that the terrorists came from abroad.

Israeli and Palestinian officials have cast doubt on the authenticity of a communique that claimed responsibility for the attack in the name of the Islamist group, Hamas. Palestinian officials say the language of the statement was not typical of Hamas, and they point out that it included a demand for the release of a Lebanese extremist, kidnapped by Israeli forces in southern Lebanon in 1989.

In Thursday's interview, Arafat repeated that the Palestinian Authority is doing its best to combat terrorism. And he asserted that the Israeli crackdown will only provoke more terror. The Palestinian leader halted formal security cooperation with Israel last spring, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government began construction of a new Israeli housing project in east Jerusalem.

Israel is demanding that the Palestinians renew security cooperation, and that demand is supported by the United States. It is expected to be the key issue when US envoy Dennis Ross returns to the region this weekend for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

U.S. Criticizes Israeli and Palestinian Leaders

By David Swan (VOA-State Department)

The US government is criticizing both Israeli and Palestinian leaders over their latest comments on the Middle East crisis. The administration also denies suggestions of a shift toward Israel in policy.

Despite Washington's repeated calls for partnership and restraint, Israelis and Palestinians are keeping up their heated rhetoric. The new State Department spokesman, James Rubin, took Palestinian Chairman Yasir Arafat to task for urging his people to prepare for battle due to Israel's economic blockade.

But the department also scolded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has accused the Palestinian Authority of acting like states that spread terrorism, including the regime of Muammar Qadhafi in Libya. "It is hard to fathom how one could compare Chairman Arafat to Col. Qadhafi. Chairman Arafat was on the White House lawn with the president; he signed a peace agreement with the Israelis. We regard him as a partner in our effort to find peace in the Middle East. Col. Qadhafi is an international outlaw."

Israel May Ask EU to Prohibit Hamas' Fund-Raising

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel may ask European countries to shut down major fund-raising operations in Europe run by the militant Islamic group Hamas. The request comes in the wake of last week's market bombing in Jerusalem that killed 15 and injured 157. The Hamas organization, which allegedly claimed responsibility for the double suicide bombings, funds a variety of welfare institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These include clinics, schools, mosques, and pensions for wives of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

Israel estimates that Hamas spends about $70 million a year funding such local social services -- most of which is raised abroad. But Israel believes the welfare infrastructure is inseparable from Hamas' military wing, which also receives manpower and funds. In the past, Hamas has denied that its fund-raising activities abroad went to anything other than social welfare institutions.

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