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Barak says Israelis, Jews worldwide should be prepared for terror attacks

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JERUSALEM, Oct. 13 (JTA) – Islamic militants could launch a fresh wave of terrorist attacks against Jewish targets in Israel and abroad to undermine momentum in the peace process, Prime Minister Ehud Barak has warned. Citing intelligence assessments and “past experience,” Barak called Monday for a coordinated international effort to combat anticipated terrorist attacks by “extremist forces linked to Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad and Hamas.” Barak’s remarks came as Israel seeks to reach a final-status agreement with the Palestinian Authority and revive negotiations with Syria. The talks with Syria broke off in 1996, after Damascus failed to condemn a spate of Palestinian suicide bombings against Israel by opponents of the Oslo peace process. On Wednesday, Israeli security officials said they doubted the authenticity of a leaflet purportedly issued by the military wing of Hamas that said it would halt suicide attacks on Israeli civilians in return for a Jewish settlement freeze. The officials repeated the same intelligence assessment that Barak referred to Monday. Some Hamas officials have said the military wing no longer wants to carry out suicide attacks because the Palestinian public is criticizing them. On the Palestinian negotiating track, officials from both sides met this week in a bid to resolve a dispute over the release of 151 Palestinian prisoners that was called for in an accord they signed last month in Egypt. On Wednesday, Barak’s office announced the releases would take place by the weekend. The announcement came after negotiators for the two sides agreed on the criteria Israel would use to determine who would be released. Last week, Israel canceled its planned release of a group of prisoners after Palestinian officials complained that Israel was offering to free only those prisoners who have almost finished their terms. The Palestinians had insisted on the freedom of those who have many years left to serve. Israeli and Palestinian officials were also working out the final details for next week’s anticipated opening of a safe-passage route for Palestinians traveling between the Gaza Strip and a point near the West Bank town of Hebron. The Palestinian Authority official in charge of civilian affairs, Jamil Tarifi, said this week the two sides still had to determine the location of the liaison offices that will be situated at either end of the safe-passage route. In the Knesset, legislators held a heated debate Monday on a no-confidence motion in the prime minister submitted by the Likud Party over what it termed Barak’s failure in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Likud officials accused Barak of abandoning the principle of reciprocity that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had made a cornerstone of his dealings with the Palestinians. Likud Knesset member Silvan Shalom said that instead of a process of give-and-take in the negotiations, Barak has turned the negotiations into a process of Israel giving – and giving more. Responding for the government, Cabinet minister Haim Ramon said Barak has been devoting his first three months in office to undoing the damage wrought by Netanyahu’s government. The knowledge that the government could easily muster a majority to defeat the motion did not prevent the session from becoming heated.

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