Rome (Oct. 12)
Police are investigating two terrorist bombings aimed against Jews which injured five people on Yom Kippur eve and another at a fashionable hotel the following morning which killed an official of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The Yom Kippur eve bombs exploded at the Israel Tourist Office and at the main post office in Ostia, a well known meeting place for Russian Jewish emigres in transit to the U.S. or Canada. The victims, all hospitalized, included an unidentified Italian who was in the building housing the Tourist Office at the time and four people in Ostia. Two of the latter, Pughna Bella, 22, and her brother, Alexandre, 18, are Russian and Francesco Napoli, 44, and Francesco Ditti, 45, are Italian.
The PLO man was identified as Majed Abu Shrarah, a member of the central committee of El Fatah who was described as a liaison officer with Palestinian journalists in the Israel-occupied territories. He was killed when a bomb detonated in his room at the Flora Hotel on the Via Veneto, opposite the Israel Tourist Office.
VERSIONS OF THE BOMBINGS
Police investigators appeared to link the three bombings. According to one version, Shrarah was killed while manufacturing a bomb and may have been the perpetrator of the Tourist Office and Ostia bombings. But the police have since abandoned that theory. Another version, circulated by sources in Beirut, claims Shrarah was killed by Palestinian extremists who considered him too moderate.
But PLO sources in Rome and Beirut have charged Israeli agents with responsibility and the Italian government with “complicity.” In an ironic twist, much of the local press seems to “buy” the PLO accusations and has taken a decidedly anti-Israel tone. The PLO office in Rome went so far as to charge that Israeli agents planted the bomb in the Tourist Office to divert attention from a lethal bomb they planted under Shrarah’s bed.
Most Rome newspapers yesterday morning carried a chronology of acts of violence against the PLO representatives dating back to 1972 with emphasis on the killing of an El Fatah man, Wael Zuwaiter in Rome in October of that year. Israeli intelligence operatives were officially accused of that killing after a group of Israelis were tried and convicted in Lillehammer, Norway for the murder of an Algerian.
PRESS HIGHLIGHTS ALLEGATIONS AGAINST ISRAEL
While the local press played up allegations against Israelis, no mention was made of PLO terrorist attempts on El Al planes and Israeli offices in Rome. The newspaper La Stampa published an interview with El Fatah leader Abu Ayad in Beirut who said the Italian government had been informed that Shrarah would be in Italy under a forged Algerian passport and using the assumed name of Zithouni Habbas for “security reasons,” but failed to protect him.
Newspapers here described Shrarah as a Palestinian intellectual, author of essays and books of poetry who came to Rome frequently for medical treatment. His latest visit was to participate in an international meeting of “Palestinian journalists and writers” organized by the Italo-Arab Friendship Association. He checked into the Flora on Oct. 5.
Meanwhile, security precautions at Rome’s main synagogue and at the 10 others throughout the city were tighter than usual this holiday season. The main synagogue was cordoned off by police during Yom Kippur service. It and other synagogues were guarded by volunteers from the Jewish community.