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Israel Will Not Grant Prisoner of War Status to Captured El Fatah Members

Captured El Fatah members are not considered to be prisoners of war and will not be granted such status, it was learned from Defense Ministry sources today. The comment was made in connection with a complaint by the International Red Cross in Geneva that its representatives were not permitted by Israel to have private interviews with guerrillas captured in the March 21 military operation against the El Fatah base at Karameh, Jordan. Permission was granted the Red Cross to interview El Fatah members, but only after their interrogation by Israeli security officers was completed, Ministry sources said.

The status of El Fatah members will have a bearing in the trial of two reputed “group leaders” of a sabotage gang which began before a military tribunal in Lydda yesterday. The defendants, William Najib Nassar, 22, and Kammal Namer, 28, are charged with the murder of a Druze watchman during a raid on the Mekorot water company’s machinery storage depot at Abu Gosh, near Jerusalem on March 1. Both have pleaded not guilty of murder. But Nassar said he was proud of the sabotage action and demanded prisoner of war status. The two accused refused court-appointed lawyers. Namer said in a statement to police that he feared his comrade, Nassar, would betray him to the police. He said he had informed on more than a dozen of his comrades, whose names he picked out of the police files, and that he had led police to a large El Fatah arsenal. He described the Abu Gosh action as revenge for the slaying of the Arab gang leader, Abdul Kader Houseini, during Israel’s war for independence 20 years ago. Both Nassar and Namer are the sons of Jewish mothers who are living with their Arab husbands in Arab countries.

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