Capture of Would-be Infiltrators Belies Arafat’s Push for Peace

The capture this week of nine Palestinian terrorists planning attacks in Israel casts serious doubt over Yasir Arafat’s recent declarations that he wants to pursue peace with Israel.

That view was expressed by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, after seven Palestinians infiltrators waylaid in the southern Lebanon security zone early Monday were identified as members of Al Fatah, the military wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization controlled by Arafat.

Two other Palestinians captured at about the same time proved to be members of a dissident terrorist group.

“I don’t like people who talk about a peace bloc and then send terrorists on their way to Israel,” Peres told an election rally in Kfar Sava Monday night.

“I am more interested in the terrorists caught than in a thousand declarations by Arafat,” the Labor Party leader said.

He was referring to Arafat’s meeting with King Hussein of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in the Jordanian town of Aqaba on Sunday. They reportedly agreed to cooperate in a “peace bloc” to seek a settlement with Israel.

On Monday, a senior PLO official was quoted in Tunis as urging Jews and Arabs in Israel to vote for “the forces which represent the real peace choice.”

KIBBUTZ WAS TARGET

But it was from a PLO base in the southern Lebanese port of Sidon that the Al Fatah gang departed Sunday. The seven, one of them a 14-year-old girl, hid out in Klea village in the Israeli-patrolled security zone, less than 300 yards from the Israeli border.

They reportedly planned to enter Israel and seize hostages for bargaining purposes at Kibbutz Misgav Am, just across the border.

The terrorists were captured by soldiers of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army, which had been alerted to their presence in the village. Israeli defense officials sent messages of congratulations to the SLA commander, Gen. Antoine Lehad.

On Monday morning, an Israel Defense Force patrol nabbed two terrorist infiltrators in the Har Dov area, on the northern slopes of Mt. Hermon. A third got away.

The captured men said they belonged to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, headed by Nayef Hawatmeh, and had been sent to attack civilian targets in Israel.

Infiltration attempts from southern Lebanon can be expected to increase, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told the Cabinet on Monday. He said that was likely with the approach of the Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers, which is now scheduled to occur on or around Nov. 12

The PNC, often described as the PLO’s parliament in exile, is expected to declare an independent Palestinian state in the administered territories.

Rabin said the IDF is preparing for an escalation of the Palestinian uprising in the administered territories. Some Palestinian groups might resort to firearms, he warned.

Meanwhile, Al Fatah is making the most of its failed infiltration attempt. It distributed photographs taken of the seven gang members before the operation.

It seemed to take particular pride in Kifah Afifi, 14, shown in full battle dress.

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