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>Israel Faxx
>JN April 7, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 64

Hamas Leader Killed During Inter-Party Squabble

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Palestinian police say Hamas military leader Muhyideen al-Sharif was killed a week ago by fellow-members of Hamas as a result of an internal dispute, and not by Israeli agents as Hamas had claimed.

Senior Palestinian officials confirm the police are holding four members of Hamas in connection with the killing. The suspects are believed to have shot al-Sharif in a disagreement over how to allocate money and what tactics Hamas should use in its fight against Israel.

The police say the explosion which burned and disfigured his body March 29 was staged to cover-up the shooting. But an autopsy and an extensive investigation revealed the truth.

The Palestinian West Bank police chief Jibril Rajoub says the suspects include men al-Sharif had trained and worked with in Hamas, and some of them have confessed. Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath says the investigation clears Israel of any involvement, unlike, he says, previous unexplained killings of militant Palestinian leaders.

"Our information so far does not indicate any Israeli connection. Very naturally Israel was a prime suspect as it has murdered all the previous people (militants) in very similar ways."

But Hamas is not convinced. It issued a statement rejecting the official conclusions as "lies" and renewing its threat to retaliate against Israel for the killing. The statement accuses the Palestinian Authority of bowing to pressure from Israel and the United States, and says the police report is an attempt to harm Hamas and its "holy war."

There were many conflicting versions of what happened before the official Palestinian report, ranging from a bomb-making accident to assassination by Israeli agents. Israel strongly denied any involvement, and has been on high alert against the possible renewal of Hamas suicide bombings.

Palestinian officials say they will publish the full details of the investigation soon. Once that is done, ordinary Palestinians will be left to decide whether to believe the Authority or Hamas. Most Palestinians support the Authority and its peace efforts, but the Authority has an interest in easing tension with Israel in order to move the peace process forward, and any Hamas revenge attacks would set that process back.

Hamas, which opposes the peace accords, has great credibility with many Palestinians because of its religious and nationalistic fervor and its numerous social service programs. But Hamas has an interest in keeping any internal dispute secret to protect that reputation, and in blaming Israel for virtually any Palestinian problem to increase its base of support.

Members of al-Sharif's family say Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat personally gave them the investigation's results on Monday, but as Hamas supporters they are reluctant to believe it.

Police chief Jibril Rajoub says the "mysterious" case of al-Sharif has been solved. But with the conflicting information, claims, and motivations, in spite of the official report, for many in the region at least some of the mystery will remain.


Switzerland Holds 700 Paintings Stolen From Jews

By IINS News Service

More than 700 paintings stolen by the Nazis from Jewish people, and worth at least 100 million Swiss Francs ($65.5 million) are in art museums, bank safes and private houses in Switzerland, said Thomas Buomberger, a Swiss historian, the SonntagsZeitung reported.

Buomberger, who was commissioned by the Swiss government to investigate the role Switzerland played in Nazi Germany's theft of art treasures during World War 2, said 77 paintings found in Switzerland from that time represent only the "tip of the iceberg."

He said he had named a number of people in a report, who had bought or handled works of art stolen by the Nazis from the Jews, which would be published later this year.


28% of Jewish Localities Founded after 1967

By IINS News Service

303 Jewish localities, or 28% of all localities, were founded after 1967 with 137 of these being in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. Some 27% of all Jewish localities were founded prior to 1948 and 45% were founded between 1948 to 1967. As of 1995, the most recent census, there were 1,184 localities; 1,066 Jewish, nine mixed Jewish-Arab, and 118 Arab.

In 1995, 70% of Israelis lived in the three metropolitan areas as compared to 50% in 1948. Nazareth is the largest Arab city, with more than 50,000 residents, while five Arab cities have between 20,000 to 50,000 residents.


Kashrut in the Air

By Arutz-7 News Service
El Al Israel Airlines is preparing its air-borne kitchens for Passover. Teams of rabbinic "kosherers" and supervisors will carry out their work on the company's 28 aircraft Wednesday night. El Al is preparing to serve some 100,000 Kosher-for-Passover meals during the course of the week-long holiday.

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