TEL AVIV (Jul. 2)
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin warned today that the rise of Shiite Moslem terrorism poses serious security problems for Israel but also threatens non-Israeli targets abroad.
He blamed recent Shiite terrorism in Lebanon on Syria which, he maintained, is the dominant factor in Lebanon and controlled the various organizations and militias active there. Syrian President Hafez Assad has been hailed by the Reagan Administration for his role in the release of 39 American hostages held by Shiites in Beirut for 17 days.
Rabin spoke at the opening of a three-day conference on international terrorism and how to combat it, organized by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies (JCSS) of Tel Aviv University. It is attended by 62 academic experts and defense officials from several Western countries and 100 Israeli counterparts.
SHIITE PROBLEM MORE SERIOUS THAN PALESTINIANS
Rabin said that while the Palestinians constitute Israel’s most immediate terrorist threat, Shiite terrorism presents a new and potentially even more serious problem. He said that in 21 years of dealing with terrorist activities, he had never come across terrorists prepared to die in suicide missions. He noted that for many Shiite terrorists, their mission was not fulfilled unless it ended in the suicide of the perpetrator.
If this kamikaze attitude is extended to targets abroad, it will create an entirely new kind of threat, Rabin said. He listed these as hijackings and the seizure of Americans or other non-Israelis as hostages whose lives would be spared only if Israel made concessions that were unacceptable. He predicted that terrorists would strike abroad because security measures taken by Israel made it difficult if not impossible to hit Israeli targets.
Rabin said he thought yesterday’s terrorist bombing in Madrid was the work of Shiite extremists. One woman was killed and 27 persons were injured when a bomb exploded outside the British Airways office in the Spanish capital. The same building houses the offices of TWA, the American air carrier whose Flight 847 was hijacked by Shiite extremists on June 14, leading to the hostage crisis in Beirut.
Rabin confirmed that with the American hostages safely on their way home, arrangements have been made to release 300 of the 750 Shiites held prisoner in the Atlit detention camp. He said the remainder would be released in the near future provided that the security situation in south Lebanon remains more or less stable.
Rabin repeated Israel’s explanation that it planned to free the 300 Shiites long before the hostage crisis but delayed because of an incident in south Lebanon involving its ally, the South Lebanon Army, and the hijack of TWA Flight 847 shortly afterwards.
The hijackers demanded that Israel free all of the original 766 Shiite prisoners who were transferred to Atlit on April 2 from the Ansar detention camp in south Lebanon. Had Israel surrendered to the hijackers’ demands, it would have laid itself open to further terrorist activities, hijackings and hostage-takings, Rabin said.
VEILED CONDEMNATION OF LEBANON WAR
Observers at the conference saw in some of Rabin’s remarks a veiled condemnation of Israel’s war in Lebanon which began in June, 1982 under his predecessor, then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon.
What the invasion of Lebanon three years ago accomplished, Rabin said was to encourage Shiite terrorism which became much more dangerous than the terrorism of the Palestine Liberation Organization the invasion was supposed to root out. “If the Shiites really set themselves against Israel at home and abroad, Israel will really have a problem,” the Defense Minister said.
The three-day conference will split into small groups for intensive discussions of such subjects as Islamic terrorism; Jewish terrorism; nationalist or ideological terrorism in Europe and the U.S.; combatting terrorism; terrorism in Latin America; and the Soviet connection and Arab connection with terrorists.