JERUSALEM (Nov. 15)
As Israeli and Palestine Liberation Organization officials were reconvening in Cairo for another round of negotiations, an attack Monday by two ax-wielding terrorists in the West Bank town of Hebron set off new waves of Jewish protest and more questions about PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat’s ability to control violence in the territories.
The murder, also Monday, of a high-ranking PLO official in Lebanon has likewise prompted speculation that disorder within that organization could delay the implementation of the Palestinian self-rule accord, which is scheduled to be implemented next month.
A Jewish resident of Hebron, Avraham Zarbiv, was seriously wounded by two terrorists wielding axes as he was going to morning prayers at the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Despite serious blows to the head, Zarbiv managed to shoot and kill one of his assailants. The second attacker escaped with Zarbiv’s gun.
Zarbiv was reported to have suffered serious head injuries.
Israeli security officials imposed a curfew on Hebron and declared it a closed military area.
Jewish settlers stoned Arab cars in response, injuring some of their occupants.
The Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a radical faction opposed to the peace process, claimed responsibility for the attack. The name of the group was engraved on the ax of the dead terrorist.
In Cairo, the sixth round of talks between Israel and the PLO to discuss the implementation of Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and West Bank town of Jericho began with the parties expected to focus on resolving differences over the extent of Israel’s military withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho, scheduled to begin Dec. 13.
FATAH BLAMES ABU NIDAL FOR PLO KILLING
The talks will also focus on issues of economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians.
Multilateral talks on the environment, attended by about 40 countries, also convened Monday in Cairo.
Those negotiations, which are being boycotted by Syria and Lebanon, will include discussions about fighting desertification of the region; environmental awareness programs and anti-pollution projects.
Meanwhile in Lebanon, the top PLO official there was killed in a hail of bullets.
Mouein Shabaydah, 58, was killed when submachine-gun fire riddled his car during a high-speed chase through the streets of the southern port city of Sidon.
He was the second officer of Arafat’s mainstream Al Fatah faction to be killed in Lebanon in a week, and the sixth — according to Israel Radio — since the Israel-PLO self-rule agreement was signed in Washington on Sept. 13.
While some Palestinians believed the attack was carried out by Israeli agents, sources within the Fatah organization said they thought followers of rejectionist leader Abu Nidal killed Shabaydah in an effort to undermine the Israeli-PLO accord.
There was no official reaction in Jerusalem to the Sidon attack.
But just hours before word came through of that killing, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was on a visit to Washington, warned that “disorder” within the PLO could disrupt or delay the implementation of the agreement.
The attack in Hebron has provoked skepticism about Arafat’s ability to prevent further terrorist acts by his followers.
Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Gur said Arafat’s ability to quell terrorism is a test of his ability to implement the interim autonomy agreement with Israel.
“No doubt if Arafat and the PLO will not prove they can control their people,” he told Israel Television, “they will have a big problem in implementing the agreement.”
Israel, for its part, will continue to do “anything possible” to stop the terrorist attacks, Gur said. He called the settlers’ violent protests against the ongoing terror campaign “absolutely unnecessary and forbidden.”
Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini said that it is the PLO’s policy to condemn any violence against Israelis or Palestinians. But he, too, warned against the settlers’ violent protests.
“Either the (Israeli) army will take the responsibility and also protect the Palestinians from the settlers,” he said, “or the Palestinians will start searching for a way to protect themselves.”
Members of the opposition in Knesset voiced protest and concern over the latest terror acts.
ARAFAT ‘CANNOT DELIVER THE GOODS’
Likud Knesset member Uzi Landau said they were evidence that Arafat cannot “deliver the goods,” and that the self-rule accord “was signed and carried out in a rash and reckless manner.”
In a related development, Israel Meir Lau, Israel’s chief Ashkenazic rabbi, said he is worried about the safety of the settlers. He told Israel Radio that after being regarded for years by the government as an asset, the settlers and their security concerns are no longer being taken into account by the Rabin government.
In a separate development, a new group calling itself the Black 13th of September Brigade reportedly claimed responsibility this week for the Oct. 29 abduction and murder of Jewish settler Chaim Mizrachi.
The announcement follows word from the Israeli government that Mizrachi’s killers were not members of the rejectionist group Hamas but were, in fact, members of Arafat’s Fatah.
The group calling itself Black 13th warned it would commit similar acts in the near future.
A group called Black September was responsible for the killing of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich in 1972. It was later determined that Black September was a code name for Fatah.
In a statement released to news agencies over the weekend, the group calling itself Black 13th of September Brigade said that the five youths arrested by Israeli authorities for Mizrachi’s murder belonged to the group and that all of them were dissidents within Fatah.