TEL AVIV Ñ The Palestinian Authority has refused to abandon its
policy of convincing insurgents to end their attacks against Israel.
Israeli officials said that despite pressure the government of Prime
Minister Mahmoud Abbas has maintained a policy of dialogue with insurgency
groups. The officials said the PA has arrested several Palestinians
suspected of firing mortars and rockets toward Israeli targets in the Gaza
Strip, but released them soon after interrogation.
So far, officials said, six insurgents from the ruling Fatah movement
were captured by the PA in the Gaza Strip. They said the insurgents were
released after a violent demonstration by Fatah gunmen in Gaza City.
"Everyone is operating, but not through the use of force," Israeli
military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Farkash-Zeevi said. "It is a
system of persuasion."
Officials said the PA has told Israel that the insurgents were released
after they pledged not to attack Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip. They
said the PA has argued that persuasion is required to maintain a ceasefire
declared by the major Palestinian insurgency groups.
[On Sunday, Fatah gunmen burst into a courtroom in Ramallah and killed a
Palestinian on trial on charges of collaborating with Israel. The
Palestinian was identified as Kayed Shalbaya, 35, and the Fatah-dominated Al
Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility.]
"There were incidents in which Palestinians were arrested, several of
those connected to the fire, and after a dialogue they were released,"
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said. "I would of course prefer that
all of those connected to the attacks would be prosecuted. In my eyes, they
are grave. But I understand that their [PA] intentions are different."
On Monday, PA officials said they had foiled two attacks planned against
Israel. One of the attacks planned was a suicide bombing against an Israeli
terminal at the edge of the Gaza Strip. The officials said an 18-year-old
Palestinian woman who had confessed to volunteering to blow herself up was
interrogated and sent back to her family.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have announced a three-month ceasefire. Fatah
said it would honor a ceasefire for six months.
On Sunday the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved the
release of up to 400 Palestinian prisoners over the next week. The Cabinet
voted 13-9 to approve a set of guidelines that would release Palestinians
who did not kill Israelis and were not members of Islamic insurgency groups.
Meanwhile, the United States is considering relaying a formal
extradition request for a Hamas insurgent who was convicted of a series of
suicide strikes that included the killing of at least three Americans.
The Bush administration is discussing the prospect of requesting the
extradition of Hassan Salameh. Salameh was captured by Israel in 1998 in the
West Bank and was said to have carried out a series of suicide strikes in
Israeli cities in the mid- and late-1990s.
The proposed U.S. extradition request is being supported by Attorney
General John Ashcroft, officials said. They said several leading members of
Congress also want the United States to obtain and prosecute Salameh.
Under U.S. law, a person who is convicted of murdering an American
citizen outside of the United States could be sentenced to death. Israel
does not have a death penalty.
The Bush administration has not decided whether to formally seek
Salameh's extradition, officials said. The United States has been seeking to
maintain a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which
depends on the agreement of Palestinian insurgency groups.