Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin issued a blunt warning this week to Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat: The extension of self-rule could be jeopardized if the Palestinians do not prove their ability to control terrorism in the newly autonomous areas of the Gaza Strip and West Bank Jericho district.
Rabin issued the warning Monday during a visit to Kissufim in Gaza, the site where armed militants belonging to the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement carried out two separate attacks on Israeli vehicles the day before.
Sunday’s attacks resulted in the death of one Israeli 18-year-old Ron Sobol, and the wounding of six others.
Hamas said in a statement that Sunday’s attacks were in revenge for the killing of two of its members by Israeli police last Friday.
Noting it was the responsibility of Palestinian security officials to prevent such attacks, Rabin said the expansion of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank could be held up entirely if the PLO did not take swift action against those who were opposed to the Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.
“It is inconceivable we will continue the process without seeing on the part of the Palestinian authority a serious effort to deal with those terrorist elements who are known for claiming responsibility for carrying out terror,” Rabin told reporters.
Rabin said that the arrest of some 30 Hamas members by Palestinian police was a good sign, but that more needed to be done.
Rabin said there had been 39 instances of shootings and other serious violence since Palestinian police assumed responsibility for security in Gaza and Jericho in May.
Sobol was the first civilian killed since self-rule began, Rabin said, adding that four Israeli soldiers were killed during that time.
SHOTS FIRED IN HEBRON
The casualty toll from Hamas attacks rose again early Monday morning, when three soldiers were injured when shots were fired at their vehicle south of Hebron.
Despite Rabin’s warning, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met as scheduled at the Erez crossing point between Israel and Gaza to discuss issues surrounding the so-called “early empowerment,” the extension of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank in such areas as health, education, tourism and taxation.
In his opening remarks at the talks, chief Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath condemned Sunday’s terrorist attacks by Hamas.
“The Palestinian authority will do its best to take those responsible to justice and to prevent all such acts in the future,” he said.
According to Voice of Israel radio, Arafat has personally called upon the heads of Palestinian security to act vigorously to prevent future Hamas terrorist attacks on Israelis in the self-rule zones.
The Palestinian governing council reportedly held a special session Sunday night to deal with the issue and decided to increase security in the autonomous zones.
Along with the detentions, Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu Medein said Monday that security officials would attempt to collect weapons belonging to civilians in Gaza and Jericho, a step they have announced more than once since the dawn of self-rule in May.
The detentions, along with the promises to collect weapons, have angered some in the Hamas leadership, who this week voiced reservations about their ability to support Arafat’s leadership.
Hamas spokesmen in Amman, Jordan, were quoted Monday as denouncing Arafat’s move, saying it endangered Arab unity against Israel.
One direct result of Sunday’s attacks by Hamas was the postponement of the opening of four “safe passage” routes for Palestinians traveling between Gaza and Jericho.
Under the agreement between Israel and the PLO, Palestinians currently can travel only between the two regions during daylight hours and under police escort.
The new passages had been scheduled to open Monday, but Police Minister Moshe Shahal said a new date for the opening of the routes would be announced at some later time.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.