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Palestinian Opposed to Peace Said to Be Seeking Home in Gaza

A hard-line Palestinian leader, whose group was responsible for one of the bloodiest terrorist attacks against Israelis, has reportedly asked to move to the Gaza Strip.

Israel Radio reported Monday that Nayef Hawatmeh, the head of the Damascus- based Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, made his request via a message that was conveyed by Russian officials to the Israeli Embassy in Moscow.

In Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry officials said no official request had been received. But they said that a third party had informed Israel that Hawatmeh was rumored to be interested in setting up a residence in Gaza.

Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin told Israel Radio on Tuesday that the Israeli military administration generally deals with all formal requests by those Palestinians seeking to move to Gaza or the West Bank Jericho enclave, both of which fell under Palestinian autonomy last May.

But Beilin added that no action would be taken since there had been no formal request.

Meanwhile, local DFLP officials in the territories denied the report about Hawatmeh’s request.

“Nayef Hawatmeh didn’t apply” for permission to move to Gaza, Mohammed Jadalla, a Democratic Front activist in eastern Jerusalem, told Israel Radio.

He said Hawatmeh held talks with a Russian official who visited Damascus last week and they discussed “many other Palestinians who are supposed to go back home and were not allowed to do so by the Israeli security forces.”

The Democratic Front issued a memorandum in Damascus on Monday calling on Russia, the United States and the European Union to press Israel to allow opponents of the self-rule accord to return to the Gaza Strip.

Hawatmeh told Radio Monte Carlo that he still opposed the Palestinian self-rule accord, but that he would not interfere with Palestinian autonomy in Gaza.

He said his supporters were ready to move to Gaza, but would not end their opposition to the agreement because it falls short of Palestinian demands for statehood.

Hawatmeh, 59, was born in Jordan. In 1969, he established the Marxist Democratic Front as a breakaway group from other Palestinian factions.

The group was responsible for some of the bloodiest terror attacks against Israelis, including the 1974 attack of a school in the northern Israeli town of Ma’alot. Twenty-four Israelis, most of them teen-agers, were killed.

In July of last year, four Palestinian terrorists involved in the Ma’alot attack were expelled to Egypt after they had been smuggled into Gaza.

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