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>Israel Faxx
>JN March 15, 1999, Vol. 7, No. 51

PLO To Decide on Statehood Next Month

By IsraelWire

The leadership of the PLO is planning to meet next month at which time a final decision will be made vis-a-vis the planned unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood planned for May 4. Senior aides to Yasir Arafat have indicated the decision is still under consideration, with many senior PLO Authority officials fearing that a declaration of statehood prior to Israel's national elections May 17 would serve to strengthen the Likud's reelection campaign.

Is Syria Helping to Re-arm Iraq?

By Arutz-7 News Service

Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk visited Damascus Sunday, amid new reports Syria was helping to rearm Iraq. The London Times reported Middle East intelligence sources said Syria secretly agreed to supply Baghdad with military equipment Since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Iraq has been isolated by UN sanctions, and a strict arms embargo is in place.

But Syria -- which has been regarded as a semi-ally of the US since joining the anti-Saddam coalition that ousted Iraq from Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War -- has improved relations with Baghdad in recent months.

Deals have been reached to develop political and economic co-operation and now, according to the Times. Syrian and Iraqi intelligence services have agreed that Damascus will send military goods worth about $100 million to Iraq. The equipment will include trucks, ammunition, spares for air defense systems, engines for tanks and tracks for other armored vehicles.

Since the Gulf War, the Iraqi army has struggled to find spare parts. Recent US and British bombing of anti-aircraft radar and missile sites have also caused severe damage, reportedly destroying more than 20 percent of Iraq's air defense capability.

In 1996, Syria began improving relations with Iraq after a nine-year freeze, with Assad and Hussein meeting secretly -- according to a Congressional Taskforce on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare report -- to discuss military collaboration against Israel. And in 1997, Syria opened the border between the two countries for the first time in 10 years, and negotiated an oil deal, in defiance of UN sanctions.

Jerusalem Will Remain Israeli

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's Cabinet insists Jerusalem will remain the undivided capital of the Jewish state. The Cabinet issued a strong statement at its Sunday meeting that under no circumstances would Israel ever divide any part of Jerusalem or allow it to come under international supervision.

The move came in response to the European Union's statement it does not accept Israeli rule over the whole of the city. The Cabinet said the EU apparently still relies on UN General Assembly resolutions passed in 1947 -- before the establishment of Israel -- which classify Jerusalem as a separate entity from the Jewish state.

Israel also interpreted the EU description of Jerusalem as a separate entity as a call for the city, holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians, to come under international control.

The Israeli Cabinet said in its statement this position is both incorrect from a factual and legal point of view and is totally unacceptable to Israel. The issue came to the fore after the EU rejected an Israeli request to stop diplomats from meeting Palestinian officials at Orient House, the unofficial PLO headquarters in east Jerusalem.

This part of the city came under Israeli rule after being captured from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day war. The international community has never accepted israel's annexation of east Jerusalem, home to most of the city's Arab residents.

The EU position is also seen by Israel to favor the PLO in its demand that east Jerusalem be declared the future capital of a independent Palestinian state.

Arafat May Commute Death Sentence

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

In an effort to restore public order after two days of rioting in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat has promised a review of a death sentence imposed by his judiciary. Arafat is also releasing at least some of those jailed during the unrest.

Arafat has acted swiftly to restore calm to the Gaza Strip, which has been engulfed in turmoil after a Palestinian man was given the death penalty over the killing of a security officer.

Arafat has to ratify any death sentence passed by a Palestinian court. He has the power to commute such a sentence and can also order a retrial based on what he considers "the higher interests of the Palestinian people."

His decision to consider a stay of execution follows two days of clashes between rioters and police in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip. Two Palestinians were killed and at least 85 people injured in the riots.

Mahmoud Hussein, a senior official of Fatah, the dominant faction of the PLO, says Arafat also ordered the release of Palestinians detained during the unrest.

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