U.S. presses Syria to halt flow of Iranian aid to Fatah

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

TEL AVIV Syria has been pressured to block Iranian aid to the ruling Fatah movement.

Israeli intelligence sources said the U.S. has pressed Syria to stop the flow of Iranian and Hizbullah aid to Fatah cells in the northern West Bank.

They said the Fatah cells were the last holdout in the ceasefire by Palestinian insurgency groups.

Scores of Fatah insurgents in the areas of Jenin and Nablus have been receiving Iranian funding via Hizbullah, the sources said. They said the insurgents broke away from Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and formed cells directed and financed by Iran.

[On late Monday, Israeli authorities said a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in the northern Israeli community of Kfar Yaabetz, Middle East Newsline reported. Two people were killed in the attack for which Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.]

The sources said that over the last two weeks the United States has pressured Syria to stop the flow of Iranian funds from Beirut and Damascus to Fatah cells in the northern West Bank. They said that the drop in Iranian funds could lead to a drop in insurgency attacks.

Syria has relayed its efforts to the United States in a move meant to reconcile with Washington. The sources said the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has demanded recognition and participation in international efforts to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, so far limited to the Palestinians.

Last week, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Sadr discussed U.S. pressure on Beirut and Damascus in a trip to those two cities. Western diplomatic sources said Sadr sought to maintain the strong relations with Lebanon and Syria.

At the same time, the sources said, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been raising money and recruiting members to bolster their ranks. They said the effort has also been establishing laboratories and missile production facilities for Islamic insurgents.

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