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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      July 11, 1995, V3, #126
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Hizbullah Shells Israel After Lebanese Girls Killed

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

This past weekend's exchange of fire between Israeli forces in Southern Lebanon and the Hizbullah terrorist group has caused a controversy in Israel. It was Saturday when an Israeli tank commander in the occupied zone in southern Lebanon ordered shell fire on the Lebanese town of Nabatiyeh. Two teen-aged girls were killed and several people were injured. Hizbullah responded by firing 30 Katyusha rockets into northern Israel on Sunday.

The Israeli army chief of staff said the Israeli tank attack on Nabatiyeh had been a "human error." Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called it an unnecessary mistake, and said such mistakes should not happen.

The weekend exchange of fire was just the latest in a series of such incidents in recent weeks, in which several people on both sides have been killed. An Israeli newspaper report says Israeli officials will ask US Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross to help ease the tension during his visit to the region this week. Ross was in Israel on Monday and he goes to Syria today. Syria is one of the chief sponsors of Hizbullah.

Israel and Hizbullah have been operating according to an understanding brokered by the US two years ago, which is designed to reduce the number of attacks on civilians on both sides. But the arrangement is violated frequently for military or political reasons, or through retaliatory attacks by one side or the other, or by mistake, as the Israelis claim in this case.

Two weeks ago the Israeli commander in southern Lebanon, General Giora Inbar, told visiting foreign journalists his troops are instructed not to fire into civilian areas. But he said Hizbullah often operates in or very near villages and sometimes civilians will get hit either because Hizbullah fighters hide behind them or because Israeli soldiers make a mistake. "We have some examples that our best soldiers had such mistakes. It happens. It's a war here. Now, the war is being held between the civilian villages. It's not a military area."

Inbar says an Israeli pilot accidentally bombed a Lebanese village a year ago, killing several people, and resulting in Katyusha attacks on northern Israel. He says there was also an incident last year in which an Israeli soldier in southern Lebanon accidentally shelled an Israeli town.
Israel says there has been a marked increase in the number of attacks by Hizbullah in recent months. Some officials believe the increase is related to peace negotiations, as Syria tries to keep up pressure on Israel, and Hizbullah tries to improve its military and political position in advance of any possible peace accord.

Israeli press reports indicate senior military officers were angry at Sunday's criticism from the chief of staff and the prime minister. They say soldiers must be free to defend themselves and that the Israeli army could seriously damage Hizbullah's fighting ability if it were given a freer hand. But the Israeli government is reportedly more interested in easing the situation, perhaps with help from the traveling US diplomat.

Negotiations will Move to Italy

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators working on plans to expand Palestinian autonomy are expected to move their talks to Italy this week. The negotiators hope to leave the media spotlight behind and focus on the main issues they want to settle before their new July 25 target date. But the plan to move the talks to an as-yet undisclosed location in Italy has only generated more media interest.

An Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity says the talks will be somewhere near Rome, but not in a castle, as one Israeli newspaper has reported.

Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official says there is at least one serious, basic issue dividing the two sides, even after the agreement in principle reached on July 4 by the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

The official, Faisal Husseini, says the two sides have agreed that in the interim phase, which is to last until 1999, there will be some areas under full Palestinian control, some under full Israeli control, and some jointly controlled. Husseini says the basic disagreement is over which side will have ultimate authority in the jointly controlled areas.

The areas to be jointly-controlled are the most sensitive for both sides. They reportedly include the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, adjacent to Jerusalem, and perhaps parts of the city of Hebron, which is a focal point of extremism from both sides.

Israeli officials say their troops must be able to operate freely in those areas to guarantee the safety of Israeli settlers and the security of main roads, and to prevent terrorism. Israeli officials have said the Palestinian police who will operate in some of the West Bank cities will need Israeli permission to move outside of those cities.

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