WASHINGTON (Jun. 23)
Sixteen American citizens were killed in terrorist attacks in Israel and in Palestinian areas last year, a revised State Department report shows. The 2003 Patterns of Global Terrorism report was re-released Tuesday after State Department officials conceded that the original report — released two months ago — had omitted several significant attacks.
The first report omitted the Aug. 12 suicide bombing of a shopping mall in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, which killed two people and injured 10 others. It also omitted several smaller attacks.
The first report ended its chronology on Nov. 11, leaving out the killing of a South American tourist at Israel’s Arava border crossing from Jordan on Nov. 19. Four other tourists were injured in that attack.
Overall, the report found that 200 people had been killed in terrorist attacks in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip last year, down from more than 350 in 2002.
“Israel! i counterterrorism measures appear to have reduced the frequency of attacks,” the report says. “Continuing attacks, however, show that the groups remained potent.”
One of the most politically significant attacks occurred Oct. 15, 2003, when three Americans were killed in a diplomatic convoy in Gaza. Another attack was carried out at a bar close to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, suggesting that American interests in Israel could be targets.
The report notes Israel’s arrest of several Jewish extremists, including some planning to detonate a bomb near a girls’ school in eastern Jerusalem.
The report calls Palestinian Authority security services “fragmented and ineffective,” and repeats a charge that some senior P.A. officials may be helping terrorist groups.
The report also says there’s no evidence of an Al-Qaida presence in Palestinian areas, despite Israeli arrests of individuals claiming to be linked to the terrorist group responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 a! ttacks in Washington and New York.
In another major attack credited to Al-Qaida associates, four people were killed and 60 wounded when a bomb exploded in front of the Beth Israel synagogue in Istanbul. It was one of a series of attacks on Jewish and British sites in Turkey in November.
The report cites Egypt and Jordan for maintaining close ties with the United States on law enforcement and counter-terrorism.
The report once again identifies Iran as the most active state sponsor of terrorism. It calls Iran’s record on Al-Qaida “mixed,” but notes that Iran funds, houses, trains and arms members of several Palestinian terrorist groups.
“During 2003, Iran maintained a high-profile role in encouraging anti-Israeli activity, both rhetorically and operationally,” the report said. “Supreme Leader Khamenei praised Palestinian resistance operations, and President Khatami reiterated Iran’s support for the ‘wronged people of Palestine and their struggles.’ “
Syria also was cited for its support of Palestinian groups, but the report sai! d the groups have lowered their profile since May, when the Syrian government claimed their offices had been closed.
“Syrian officials have publicly condemned international terrorism but continue to make a distinction between terrorism and what they consider to be the legitimate armed resistance of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories” and of Hezbollah, the report said, referring to a Lebanese terrorist group.
The amended report contradicts the original report concerning terrorist trends throughout the world. The new report counted 208 terrorist incidents last year, three more than the year before. The original report claimed a decrease to 190 incidents, which the U.S. deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, hailed as a sign that America was “prevailing in the fight” against terrorism.
While the number of casualties from terrorism fell in 2003 to 625 from 725, the number of injuries increased dramatically, to 3,646 from 2,013 the year before.