JERUSALEM (Oct. 3)
Three weeks after the signing of their historic accord in Washington, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization have hit a bitter snag in their fledgling relationship.
For the second time in a week, PLO leader Yasser Arafat has sent a letter of protest to Israel — this time over an Israel Defense Force operation Saturday against members of the militant Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip.
In that action, Israeli soldiers evacuated Gazans from their homes and fired hand-held rockets at houses in an effort to find activists of Hamas, which is in bitter opposition to the peace moves by Israel and the PLO.
The operation was aimed specifically at the Izz a-Din al-Kassam military wing of Hamas, which had vowed to sabotage the agreement between Israel and the PLO.
Two commanders of the militant movement were killed and 16 others were arrested in what IDF officials termed a major setback to the group.
Arafat, in turn, claimed the IDF operation violated the agreement between Israel and the PLO.
The message was conveyed to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by Jerusalem lawyer Ziad Abu-Ziad, an adviser to the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks.
Arafat’s previous protest was sent last week, when he criticized an Israeli operation against members of the Black Panther terrorist cell in the West Bank village of Kabatiya. The Black Panthers are an armed wing of Arafat’s A1 Fatah faction of the PLO.
As a result of that action, Israeli forces captured Black Panther Commander Ahmed Awad Ikmail, who had been on the IDF’s most-wanted list for five years.
IDF WILL ACT AGAINST TERROR
Although Arafat himself is known to be worried about the power of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, his latest protest to the Israeli government was seen here as a signal to Arafat’s opponents in the territories that he considers himself leader of all Palestinians, including those who oppose him.
Following Saturday’s IDF operation against Hamas, several PLO leaders convened a news conference in Gaza.
They maintained that despite the fact that the operation was aimed at those who opposed the peace process, the actual operation was detrimental to the peace process.
Brig. Gen. Yom-Tov Samiya, commander of IDF forces in the Gaza Strip, said in response that the IDF is determined to act against wanted terrorists until Israeli forces withdraw from the territory.
As part of the Israeli-PLO agreement signed in Washington, Israel is to begin withdrawing its forces from Gaza and the West Bank town of Jericho by mid-December.
Samiya told reporters Sunday that ever since the signing of the Israeli-PLO accord on Sept. 13, armed Hamas units have continued attacks on IDF targets.
In response to Arafat’s latest protest, Israeli officials said the IDF actions involved no violation of the agreement with the PLO.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told reporters during a news conference Sunday in the West Bank town of Hebron that Israeli security forces would continue to target Arab militants bent on undermining the Israeli-PLO accord.