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Begin; Recent Upsurge of Terrorism in Gaza Region Related to PLO Office in El Arish in North Sinai

March 26, 1981
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Premier Menachem Begin charged today that the recent upsurge of terrorist acts in the Gaza region was related to the activities of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in El Arish in northern Sinai. He said Israel took a very serious view of this development and has lodged a formal protest with the Israeli-Egyptian joint military committee. El Arish was the first Sinai territory returned to Egypt under terms of the peace treaty.

The issue was raised in the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee by Yosef Rom of Likud, Yehuda Ben-Meir of the National Religious Party, and Binyamin Halevy of the Democratic Movement. They contended that Egypt was violating the peace treaty by allowing the PLO to establish itself in El Arish and operate in the Gaza Strip.


The committee also discussed the situation in south Lebanon. Amnon Lin of Likud complained that the government was attacking Maj. Saad Haddad, commander of the Christian militia. He was apparently referring to an appeal by Begin to Haddad for restraint after the Christian forces shelled Kantara village in south Lebanon last week killing two soldiers of the Nigerian contingent of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and wounding II others as well as nine civilians and several Lebanese army regulars.

A third Nigerian soldier died in an Israeli hospital yesterday from wounds sustained in the shelling. A UN source identified him as Pvt. James Enahoro. His death brought to 61 the number of UNIFIL soldiers killed since the force was established three years ago. Begin agreed that Israel had “a sublime moral duty to defend the Christians in Lebanon.” He maintained, however, that Israel’s influence on Haddad was limited. “We cannot give him orders, just like the U.S. cannot give us orders,” he said. He didn’t explain that juxtaposition. With respect to relations with UNIFIL, Begin said an understanding was reached between Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan and Gen. William Callaghan of Ireland, the new commander of UNIFIL.


Meanwhile, Begin said he had no knowledge of reports that Egypt intended to publish a “White Paper” on the autonomy talks to date. He denied a report that the Egyptians proposed a one-year trial settlement in the occupied territories that would grant wide powers to the National Guidance Committee, the main political body of the Palestinians on the West Bank which Israel contends is a front for the PLO. Begin said Egypt had never made such a proposal, and that in fact, the only detailed plan for autonomy was the one advanced by Israel.

Begin sent a letter of congratulations to President Anwar Sadat today on the second anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt. “The treaty between our two peoples constitutes a turning point in the history of the Middle East, “Begin wrote.” We all look forward to the continuous efforts to bring about the full implementation of the Camp David accords.”

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