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Israel charges arafat supported terror { May 6 2002 }

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Israel Sets Out Charges Arafat Supported Terror

By Lee Hockstader
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, May 6, 2002; Page A01

JERUSALEM, May 5 -- As Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in Washington for his fifth Oval Office meeting with President Bush, the Israeli government released a thick report today detailing what it calls the personal support Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has given to terrorism.

The 103-page report, based partly on documents captured by Israeli forces in Palestinian cities and offices last month, is the most painstaking effort yet by Sharon's government to lay out such a case against Arafat. The Israeli leader has often called Arafat a "terrorist" and his Palestinian Authority a "coalition of terror."

The report features original and translated documents, some of them seized from Palestinian computer disks, along with a great many assertions and allegations for which no documentary proof is offered. Throughout the report, Israel identifies individuals as "terrorists" without providing evidence to substantiate the characterization. The report also includes items from the Palestinian and Arab press, and photographs of seized weapons and ammunition.

Among the documents are papers bearing Arafat's signed approval for funding to militants who Israel says carried out terrorist attacks. In one of the Palestinian documents, the militants are referred to as "fighting brothers"; in another, a Palestinian intelligence official writes that a cell linked to Arafat's Fatah movement carried out a "qualitative and successful" attack on a Jewish girl's bat mitzvah celebration in the northern Israeli town of Hadera on Jan. 17. Six people were killed and 30 others wounded when a Palestinian gunman burst into the hall and opened fire.

"This is clear-cut, hard evidence that the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat is a sponsoring and operating body in support of terror," said the Israeli minister of parliamentary affairs, Danny Naveh, who led a team that prepared the report. "Arafat was personally involved in the planning and execution of terrorist attacks."

The release of the report appears to be an effort to advance two of the prime minister's main goals. The immediate objective is to convince the White House, and the American public, that Israel cannot enter into peace negotiations with the Palestinians as long as they are led by Arafat. The Bush administration, eager to nudge the two sides toward peace talks, has said Israel has little choice but to deal with Arafat, the elected Palestinian leader.

Israeli officials said the report also is intended to build support for Sharon's position that Arafat must be deported from the Palestinian territories and ostracized by the international community in order to make room for a new, more moderate Palestinian leadership.

U.S. officials said they had not yet reviewed the new material. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told Fox News, "we are going to look at whatever it is that Prime Minister Sharon would like to show us." A Western diplomat said Sharon was unlikely to persuade the United States to abandon its stance on Arafat, or the Bush administration to support deporting Arafat.

Palestinian officials dismissed the Israeli report as propaganda. Even if the documents are authentic, which the Palestinians do not concede, they would prove nothing in a court of law, the officials said.

"Israel sort of labels a person a terrorist but never provides any evidence to support that," said a legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization, Diana Butto. "As for the transfers of money, whether to pay salaries or anything else, this is suddenly conclusive evidence of Arafat knowing they were involved in terrorist activities? That's a pretty big leap."

Another lawyer for the Palestinians, Stephanie Koury, said: "It's Sharon making excuses for not wanting to get back to the peace table. Do you think Palestinians are happy talking to Sharon? No. But we're committed to negotiations for ending the Israeli occupation, establishing two states that can live in peace side by side."

Nonetheless, some of the material in the report appears potentially damaging to the Palestinians, and could hurt their standing in international public opinion.

Several of the documents are requests to Arafat for funding from local officials of his Fatah movement or one of its armed wings, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. One such request was made in April last year on behalf of 15 men, including five who Israel says took part in shooting attacks against Israelis near the West Bank town of Tulkarm, and one who helped kill two Israeli border guards last September. The request, from a local Fatah official, is for $2,000 for each of the men. Arafat authorized $800 for each, and signed the order, according to the documents.

Palestinians had previously maintained the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades was more or less autonomous from Arafat and his top aides.

Israel offered other documents as evidence that Arafat's top officials were actively involved in procuring mortars, artillery shells and antitank weapons, all of which are barred to the Palestinians. Under agreements with Israel, Arafat's Palestinian Authority is allowed a limited number of sidearms and assault rifles but no heavy weapons.

The report says one of Arafat's top financial officials, Fuad Shubaki, was central to the Palestinian arms-procurement effort. Israel has previously said Shubaki, who frequently traveled with Arafat, was instrumental in arranging a 50-ton shipment of Iranian weapons in January that was captured by Israeli naval commandos. He was arrested by the Palestinians earlier this year under intense Israeli and U.S. pressure.

Another document is a request to Shubaki from al-Aqsa for $25,000 to buy a lathe and $40,000 for a milling machine, equipment that Israel says is used to fashion artillery shells and mortars. No reply to the request is included in the documents.

The Israeli report noted that the European Union provided about a tenth of the Palestinian Authority's $90 million monthly budget, a large chunk of which was spent paying the salaries of "terrorists." In this way, said Naveh, the Israeli minister, the Europeans inadvertently supported terrorist attacks on Israel.

Questioned by reporters, Naveh acknowledged that the CIA also provided substantial assistance for Arafat's security services, which Israel has linked to terrorist attacks. In particular, Naveh said, the CIA gave extensive help to the Palestinian General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, led by Tawfiq Tirawi. The Israeli report identified Tirawi and the West Bank Fatah chief, Marwan Barghouti, as Arafat's right-hand men in overseeing terrorist plans and operations. Tirawi remains in his job; Barghouti was arrested by Israeli troops last month and has been under intensive Israeli interrogation.

In addition, the report details what it calls "direct and systematic" funding from Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and others killed during the Palestinian armed uprising, including members of the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. One document refers to Saudi payments worth some $545,000, in installments, to 102 families of individuals Israel calls "terrorists" who died last year.

Similar payments to the families from other sources had been publicly described by them in the past, including money from Iraq.

The implication, according to the report, "is that a suicide terrorist embarking on a terrorist attack knows that his family will receive continuous aid from the Saudi regime after his death." It is a "great mistake," Naveh said, "to allow the Saudis to gain political or PR points as those interested in peace" while they channel funding to the families of suicide bombers.

Today, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the army had "confiscated" dozens of expensive sport-utility vehicles form the Palestinian security services. The army's high command ruled that the vehicles were "spoils of war" and not looted property, the newspaper reported.

2002 The Washington Post Company

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