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Police Hold Palestinian Waiter in Stabbing Death of French Woman

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A 19-year-old Palestinian waiter linked to the fundamentalist Hamas movement is being held for the fatal stabbing of a French woman who was on a religious pilgrimage to Christian shrines in Bethlehem.

Khaled Asakra, a resident of nearby Abadiya village, surrendered to police after Anne Lei, 64, was murdered Tuesday with a 16-inch kitchen knife as she left the restroom in the Andalus Restaurant, where Asakra was working.

Israeli authorities said the murder was related to the internecine violence among Palestinians in which Moslem extremists have frequently assaulted Christian Arabs.

The suspect is known to be a supporter of Hamas, founded in the Gaza Strip soon after the Palestinian uprising began in December 1987.

His village is known to be a hotbed of Hamas activism, which in recent months has been aimed against the relatively wealthy, predominantly Christian Arab population of Bethlehem and its suburbs, Beit Sahur and Beit Jala.

The Palestine Liberation Organization condemned the Bethlehem murder in a statement issued from its Tunis headquarters by Bassam Abu Sharif, a senior adviser to Yasir Arafat.

It was also deplored by Palestinian activist Faisal Husseini, who sent a message of condolence to the French Consulate in East Jerusalem.

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