Israel freezes peace accords More transfers of land to Palestinians halted

September 06, 1997|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM WIRE SERVICES CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — JERUSALEM -- In the wake of the latest terrorist bombing in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared yesterday that he is no longer bound by peace accords and said he will withhold returning land to the Palestinians until he feels that Yasser Arafat has cracked down on terrorism.

"We decided that the process in which Israel, time after time, hands land to the Palestinian authority, and then murderers use these territories as their launching ground, shall not continue," he told Israel TV.

"We declare here today that if the other side does not meet its obligations, we of course are exempt from meeting our $l obligations."

Netanyahu's comments came on a day in which Israel buried school girls and soldiers.

The two teen-agers died on the stone pavement of a Jerusalem shopping promenade Thursday, victims of the latest suicide bombings to hit the Jewish state. Eleven navy commandos died in overnight clashes on a seaside battlefield, casualties in Israel's never-ending war in South Lebanon. A twelfth special forces soldier was missed and presumed dead.

"We suffered a double tragedy, a terrible tragedy," Netanyahu said. "Israel is engaged in a dual front against terrorists who want to destroy the Jewish state by their own statements, who are not interested in neither peace nor having any Jews living here in the Middle East."

Netanyahu spoke after a Cabinet meeting of security advisers, called to determine Israel's response to the triple suicide bombing on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. The attack killed three teen-age girls, a 20-year-old man and the bombers. Another 190 people were wounded.

The bombings are the third terrorist attack since Netanyahu was elected in May 1996 on a pledge of "peace with security."

Netanyahu said Israel would withhold returning additional land to the Palestinians -- a tenet of the 1993 peace accords -- until Arafat, head of the Palestinian authority, waged war on the Muslim terrorists in his midst. The military wing of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas claimed responsibility for the last two suicide bombings in Jerusalem.

Despite withholding the promised turnover of West Bank land, Netanyahu said nothing specific to indicate that he would rescind other aspects of the peace accords or refuse future negotiations. The Palestinians now control the seven West Bank cities and share rule with the Israelis in more than 400 villages -- about 27 percent of the West Bank.

A spokesman for Arafat denounced the decision as a serious Israeli violation of the peace accords and demanded immediate U.S. intervention.

After Thursday's bombings, Israel reimposed its closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and confined Palestinians to their towns and villages. Yesterday, Israeli troops arrested 69 suspected militants in West Bank areas still under Israeli control.

Israeli officials also suggested that troops might hunt down militants in Palestinian-controlled areas.

Such an action could wipe out any remaining cooperation between the two sides and possibly lead to armed clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian police.

Arafat, who has denounced the bombings, bristled at the Israeli accusations against him, saying that the suicide squad responsible for yesterday's bloodshed came from abroad. "I am astonished, completely astonished, why the Israeli government is attacking us," he said in a TV interview.

Israel has handed Arafat a list of dozens of Hamas activists it wants him to arrest. It appeared unlikely that Arafat would meet the demands.

After the bombing, the Palestinians detained two Hamas political leaders in the West Bank, arrested eight activists and shut down a Hamas newspaper in Gaza.

Madeleine K. Albright, due to arrive in Israel Wednesday in her first visit to the region as U.S. secretary of state, has demanded of Arafat "100 percent effort" to stop the Islamic fundamentalist groups from using the Palestinian self-ruled areas as a launching ground for its violence.

Last month, Arafat met and kissed a Hamas leader, and that drew the State Department's ire yesterday as it toughened its rhetoric.

"A charitable interpretation was that it was an effort to bring them into the tent of those who support peace," spokesman James Foley said. "To the extent that that effort was made, I have to assume the scales have fallen from his eyes and he must understand that these are enemies of peace."

When Israelis awoke yesterday, they learned that the funerals set for today would include more than the victims of the Jerusalem suicide bombings. Ten marine commandos and a military doctor were killed overnight in the deadliest clash in southern Lebanon in 12 years, according to the Israel defense forces.

A 12th soldier was missing and thought to be dead.

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