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>Israel Faxx
>JN Aug. 13, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 148

PLO Settles Klinghoffer's Achille Lauro Lawsuit

By Barbara Schoetzau (VOA-New York)

After years of litigation, the Palestine Liberation Organization has agreed to settle a lawsuit concerning a terrorist attack in 1985.

In October 1985 four Palestinian terrorists seized the Italian cruise ship "Achille Lauro" off the coast of Egypt and held its passengers hostage for two days. After the hijackers surrendered in exchange for a pledge of safe conduct out of Egypt, a stunned world learned the terrorists had killed a wheelchair bound American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, and tossed his body overboard.

Richard Murphy was US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs at the time. He says the incident became a symbol of terrorism. "It has often been cited in years past as an example of Palestinian terrorism at its worst, striking at an innocent party, in this case on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean."

Klinghoffer's family took an unprecedented step and sued the PLO, saying an organization could be held accountable for acts of terrorism. In 1990, a US federal court judge agreed. But the PLO has always said the attack was initiated by a renegade splinter group acting without the authority of the PLO.

The lawsuit was expected to finally go to trial in New York in the next few weeks. But now lawyers for both sides have announced that Klinghoffer's daughters and the PLO have reached a settlement. The lawyers refuse to disclose the amount of money involved, but call the settlement amicable.

Ambassador Murphy suggests PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat did not want a court case to rekindle memories of the PLO's past terrorist involvements -- especially now when tensions in the Middle East are so high.

The PLO also settled with a travel agency involved in the "Achille Lauro" cruise. Klinghoffer's daughters continue to call for the extradition to the United States of Abu Abbas, who is believed to have directed the operation aboard the "Achille Lauro." Abbas has reportedly been seen in the Gaza Strip within the last year.

Jews Arrested at Temple Mount

By IINS News Service

On Tuesday, Tisha B'Av, police permitted small numbers of the Temple Mount Faithful to go onto the Temple Mount as they do annually on this day, marking the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The participants, dressed in sack cloth, were prohibited from uttering any words of prayer.

Conservative Worshipers Expelled from Western Wall

By IINS News Service

As thousands began to gather for Tisha B'Av services at the Western Wall Monday night, a group of about 200 Conservative Jews were told to leave the Western Wall area.

The group, which intended to conduct a prayer service with men and women together was ordered out of the area by the head of Israel's religious sites. Police moved in and enforced the order.

Orthodox Jews object to repeated attempts to conduct prayer services at the Wall with men and women together, a move that contradicts Orthodox law.

CIA will be Involved in PLO-Israel Peace Talks

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

U-S Middle East envoy Dennis Ross has held more talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the third day of his peacemaking mission. The United States is stepping up its pressure on both sides of the conflict.

Ross has persuaded the Israelis and Palestinians to hold regular high-level security meetings and to accept the presence of members of the CIA at the meetings. The envoy says Americans will not merely be onlookers, but will be actively involved in coordination efforts.

But Israeli government officials complain that Palestinian Authority head Yasir Arafat has still not begun to crack down on Islamic militants.

Ross has criticized the travel bans and economic punishments Israel imposed on the Palestinians after the Jerusalem bombings July 30th. He said measures that do not relate directly to security are counterproductive. On Tuesday Israel began permitting farmers in Gaza to export their produce, but the closure remains firmly in place.

Palestinians are unhappy that the focus of the American diplomatic mission continues to be security, with little emphasis on political issues in the peace process. On Tuesday thousands of angry Palestinian demonstrators burned an effigy of the US envoy.

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