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Israeli security officials: Arafat condones militant acts

JERUSALEM, April 9 (JTA) — Israeli security officials said this week that the Palestinian Authority is not taking steps to dismantle the infrastructure of Islamic militant groups in the self-rule areas. The head of the Israel Defense Force intelligence branch, Maj. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Palestinian security forces had made efforts to prevent violence when there are specific warnings about a pending attack. But he said Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority had not moved to prevent militant groups from obtaining weapons and organizing. After the March 21 suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv cafe that killed three Israelis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat of giving a green light to Hamas and other groups to carry out terror attacks. Ya’alon told the Knesset committee that Arafat had not made any effort to convey to the militants that they cannot carry out attacks against Israel. He added that the Palestinian Authority was still using violence and terrorist attacks to achieve political objectives. Ya’alon disclosed that Palestinian security forces had arrested a number of people suspected of involvement in planning two unsuccessful suicide bombings against Jewish settlements in Gaza earlier this month, but it was unclear whether they had been tried. The military arm of the Islamic Jihad had issued a statement claiming responsibility for the April 1 attacks, in which two suicide-bombers blew themselves up. No Israelis were injured in the blasts. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said there was a “reasonable” level of cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces in different areas of the territories. But he, too, said the self-rule authority was not taking any measures against terrorist activities. Mordechai, who met with senior security officials Wednesday to discuss the situation in the territories, said that despite ongoing security warnings of possible terrorist attacks, he had decided on a further easing of a closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip for humanitarian purposes. Israel sealed off the territories last month after the Tel Aviv cafe suicide attack. Meanwhile, unrest continued Wednesday in the West Bank town of Hebron as Israeli soldiers wounded some 30 Palestinians in clashes. An Israeli border police officer and a photographer were also hurt. The disturbances came in the wake of heavier clashes the previous day, when two Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded in clashes with Israeli troops in Hebron. That conflict was sparked by the death of another Arab in Hebron by two Jewish seminary students, who police have said were acting in self-defense. The two students were released from custody Wednesday. Police are still examining whether the students were in a life-threatening situation. In another development, a Jerusalem court extended the detention of a Jewish settler who opened fire and wounded two Palestinian youths in the village of Harbata earlier this week after his car was stoned. Witnesses claimed that the man, identified as Yossi Levy of the Dolev settlement, had stopped his car and began firing at the youths, who were not involved in stone-throwing.