Syria Stays on U.S. Terrorism List, While PLO Involvement is in Dispute

While the State Department is earning praise from the pro-Israel community for keeping Syria on its annual listing of countries supporting terrorism, it is being accused by one Jewish group of under-reporting the Palestine Liberation Organization’s involvement in terrorist incidents.

The department’s annual report on global terrorism, released Monday, says PLO factions loyal to Yasser Arafat were responsible for “one, possibly two” acts of terrorism last year following the signing of the Israeli-PLO autonomy framework in September.

But the Zionist Organization of America maintains that the number is much higher.

The State Department’s figures are contained in “Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1993,” its annual survey of terrorist groups and the incidents they perpetrated around the world.

The report, issued at a time when the United States is pushing hard for real progress in Israeli-Syrian peace talks, retains Syria on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, despite intense lobbying by Syrian President Hafez Assad.

Other countries listed as state sponsors of terrorism are Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Sudan.

The report says members of Arafat’s Fatah faction were responsible for the murder of an Israeli settler Oct. 29, and that an “alleged” member of the Fatah Hawks claimed responsibility for the murder of two Israelis on Dec. 31.

“In both cases, the responsible individuals apparently acted independently,” the report says.

But ZOA President Morton Klein insists that Fatah has perpetrated 28 acts of terrorism against Jews and Arabs since the signing of the September accord, 16 of which occurred in 1993. Klein said his group bases its information on news reports from the Associated Press and the Jerusalem Post.

A DEFENSE OF PLO LAPSES

“I don’t understand how the State Department could not have had these terrorism reports if we had them,” said Klein, who added, “We verify every terrorist attack.”

The State Department had little to say Tuesday when asked about any possible discrepancies.

“A lot of hard work went into this report. We consulted as many sources as we could, and that’s what we came up with,” a department spokesman said.

But this is not the first time the department has been criticized for its reports on the PLO’s link to terrorism.

In January, Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Connie Mack (R-Fla.) wrote to Secretary of State Warren Christopher criticizing a progress report that had just been released on the PLO’s compliance with a pledge to renounce terrorism.

The report “reads more like a defense of the PLO’s lapses than a constructively critical guide to better behavior,” the two senators wrote.

“We are concerned that the State Department report glosses over and excuses indications that the PLO may be unwilling or incapable of completing such a transformation” to live side by side with Israel.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is studying the latest report and was planning to meet with State Department officials this week to discuss it, said Malcolm Hoenlein, the group’s executive vice chairman.

The report says that overall, violence between Palestinians in the territories decreased in 1993, with 83 Palestinians killed by other Palestinians, compared to nearly 200 in 1992.

‘A TACIT CEASE-FIRE’

It attributes the decline in part to “a tacit cease-fire” between Fatah, the PLO’s largest faction, and the Islamic extremist Hamas movement.

The report says 65 Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed and 390 wounded by Palestinian attacks in 1993. It also says that “approximately 14″ Palestinians were killed by Israeli civilians.

On the issue of Syria, the State Department concluded that, despite urgings from Damascus, the time had not yet come to remove Syria from the terrorism list.

“There is no evidence that Syrian officials have been directly involved in planning or executing terrorist attacks since 1986, but Syria continues to provide support to and safe haven for several groups that engage in international terrorism,” the report says.

It points out that several terrorist groups have training camps or other facilities on Syrian territory, including Ahmed Jabril’s rejectionist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

But the report has some words of encouragement for Syria, stating that the country has “taken steps to restrain the international activities of some of these groups.”

In particular, the report cites Syria’s role in “cooling hostilities” in southern Lebanon last summer by inducing the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah movement to halt its rocket attacks on northern Israel.

The report also says that since last September’s signing of the Israeli-PLO accord, “Syria has counseled Palestinian rejectionists to refrain from violence outside the region, although it has not acted to stop rejectionist violence in southern Lebanon.”

It also notes that Syria continues to allow Iran to resupply the Hezbollah movement via its territory.

Overall, the report shows an increase in global terrorist attacks, with 427 incidents in 1993, compared to 361 incidents in 1992.

The main reason for the increase was a jump in terrorist activities by the Kurdistan Workers Party against Turkish interests, according to the report.

The only terrorist incident that took American lives in 1993 was the February 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trade Center, the report says. The bombing, which killed six Americans, was also considered by the State Department to be the only “international terrorist ‘spectacular’ ” of the year.

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