JERUSALEM (Jul. 13)
One day after Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat returned to take up official residence in the Gaza Strip, a furor erupted between the PLO and Israel over the entry of four PLO officials with records of terrorist acts against Israeli civilians.
The four were among 13 PLO officials who accompanied Arafat to Gaza on Tuesday, when he arrived to begin taking charge of day-to-day responsibilities for running Palestinian affairs in the newly autonomous areas of Gaza and Jericho.
When Israeli security forces discovered their presence, Israel forced three of the men to leave Gaza immediately. Israel also moved to close the border crossings separating Gaza from Egypt and the West Bank from Jordan.
The fourth Palestinian eluded the Palestinian police in Gaza until Wednesday evening, when he turned himself in and was expelled.
Speaking to Israel Radio on Wednesday, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said he took “a most serious view” of the attempt made by “someone close to Arafat” to smuggle in men whose entry Israel had long firmly opposed.
“We shall make it quite clear that it would be better not to try such tricks on us,” said Rabin.
Israeli and Palestinian security men huddled together for hours to resolve what initially looked like a major crisis of confidence.
Under the terms of the May 4 Cairo accords for implementing self-rule in Gaza and Jericho, Israel may veto the entry of Palestinians it deems undesirable.
The four, who are among those on Israel’s blacklists, have consistently been refused entry by Israel.
TWO HELPED PLAN 1974 MA’ALOT ATTACK
Two of those smuggled in — Mamdouh Nofal and Nihad Jayousi — helped plan the murderous 1974 attack on a school in the Galilee development town of Ma’alot in which 21 Israeli teenagers were killed. An Israeli soldier and three Palestinian terrorists were also killed in the raid on the northern Israeli town.
Nofal and Jayousi left Gaza on Wednesday, as did Mustafa Liftawi, also known as Abu Firas, who was among the planners of the massacre at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed.
Dr. Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab who serves as a close adviser to Arafat, drove the three men out of Gaza into Egyptian territory.
Tibi later said he would wait at Gaza’s Palestine Hotel — Arafat’s new beachfront headquarters — for the fourth man.
Jihad Amarnehm, the fourth man smuggled into Gaza, gave himself up to the Palestinian police when he heard that Arafat had ordered him to surrender.
A number of Palestinian leaders — including Yasser Abed Rabbo, the newly named minister of information in the Palestinian governing council — were not permitted entry into the self-rule zones during the border closings.
The crisis with the PLO officials came just a few days after Rabin had ordered a temporary closing of all Gaza crossings into Israel.
Rabin’s order was issued Sunday after Palestinian workers, apparently angered over long bureaucratic delays at the crossings, rioted for three days at the Erez crossing at the northern end of Gaza. The closure of the Gaza crossings lasted some 24 hours and was lifted by the time Arafat returned to Gaza on Tuesday.
In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman commented on the entry of the PLO terrorists, saying, “An incident like this works against reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis.
“There needs to be a kind of coordination that would preclude incidents of this type in the future,” she said Wednesday.