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>Israel Faxx
>JN Feb. 18, 1998, Vol 6, Bo. 31

Foreign Press Begin to Arrive

Foreign journalists and their technical crews are beginning to arrive in Israel, in anticipation of a US offensive against Iraq. Many journalists who are permanently stationed in Israel, have left for Jordan and other Gulf States, and are being replaced by others who are arriving. The Government Press Office stated they expect the arrivals of the media to continue as the crisis nears the end of its diplomatic stage.

Hamas Threatens Retaliation Attacks on Israel

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The militant Palestinian group Hamas has threatened to launch attacks against Israel if the United States bombs Iraq.

In a statement distributed to news organizations, the military wing of Hamas says it will not sit by quietly while any Arab or Muslim country is attacked. It says it will respond in its "special way" with attacks against Israel.

Hamas has been responsible for numerous suicide bombings in Israel in recent years, causing the deaths of many dozens of people. Hamas rejects the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords and seeks to destroy Israel and replace it with a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, small but vocal groups of Palestinians are continuing to demonstrate in favor of Iraq and against the US policy in the Gulf, in spite of a ban on such demonstrations imposed by the Palestinian Authority. Tuesday's protest involved several hundred Palestinian students in autonomous Bethlehem.

A public opinion poll published this week indicates 94 percent of Palestinians support Iraq in its dispute with the United Nations, even though many are concerned about possible Palestinian casualties if Iraq fires missiles at Israel. Some analysts believe the Gulf crisis has made it politically more difficult for the Palestinian Authority to cooperate with Israel and US mediators to make progress in the peace process.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai caused something of a panic this week when he urged people to buy war supplies, although he said there is no need to seal rooms yet, as Israelis did during the 1991 Gulf war. Israelis from the Tel Aviv area have also reserved virtually all the hotel rooms in the north and south of the country in case hostilities break out. Iraq launched 39 Scud missiles at Israel in 1991, mostly toward Tel Aviv, but none of them was armed with chemical or biological weapons.

Times: "Britain Preparing for Chemical Attack"

By IINS News Service

The media in Britain report Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein wants to strike out at Britain for supporting the US offensive in the Gulf, and will attempt a terror attack, using chemical warfare within the boundaries of Britain.

The "Times" is reporting that British intelligence services have not ruled out the possibility of such an attack and special forces are on alert for such an eventuality.

Security experts also warned Iraq could be preparing terrorist attacks on American targets. Professor Paul Wilkinson of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St. Andrew's University said Saddam's agents had a track record of attacking political opponents abroad, including a failed assassination attempt on former US President George Bush in Kuwait in 1993.

Although the Iraqis could, in theory, try to use biological or chemical agents -- such as the virus anthrax or VX nerve gas -- Wilkinson said this was unlikely. He said, "It is difficult to see what they would gain from such an extreme attack because of the dangers of a very major attack by the Allies, using more firepower than they otherwise would."

More likely was the possibility of attacks on British or American targets -- such as embassies or commercial entities -- in other countries. The Iraqis could exploit their links with Middle East terror groups, such as Abu Nidal, to carry out such attacks for them.

Senior officials have been meeting with researchers to discuss the logistics involved in a chemical or biological warfare attack and data is being collected regarding the poisons that may be used by Iraqi terrorists.

Secret Israel, Palestinian Talks Held

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

An Israeli newspaper reports secret high-level Israeli-Palestinian talks have been held, aimed at finding a way forward in the stalled peace process.

Yediot Aharonot reports the latest meeting was Saturday night and involved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the top two aides to Yasir Arafat.

The newspaper says the meeting covered aspects of existing agreements which have not been implemented, as well as what Netanyahu considers the most important subject to discuss -- the outline of a final peace accord.

Speaking on Israel Radio Tuesday, Netanyahu refused to confirm or deny that secret talks are going on. But he said he is ready to pursue all avenues to get the peace process going again. Palestinian officials were not available for comment.

The peace process has been stalled for months, and some analysts believe the Gulf crisis has made it politically more difficult for the Palestinian Authority to cooperate with Israel and US mediators.

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