ZOA Criticizes Bush Administration’s Pressure On Israel To Stop Demanding Surrender Of Terrorists
September 23, 2002

Killer of Americans
Still Sheltered in Arafat’s HQ

NEW YORK- The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized the Bush administration’s growing pressure on Israel to withdraw its encirclement of Yasir Arafat’s headquarters, where Arafat is sheltering at least 50 fugitive senior terrorists, including one involved in the murders of American citizens.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer criticized Israel’s action (New York Times, Sept. 22, 2002), as did U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer, who “warned Prime Minister Ariel Sharon about the repercussions of the IDF’s siege of Arafat’s headquarters…Kurtzer told Sharon yesterday the U.S. is worried Israel’s action in Ramallah could harm efforts to reform the Palestinian Authority, and the calm the U.S. is interested in achieving here before launching a strike against Iraq” (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 22. 2002); and White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo said Israel’s demand that the terrorists surrender “is not helpful in reducing terrorist violence of promoting Palestinian reforms.” (New York Times, Sept. 23, 2002)

The ZOA is not aware of any statements by Fleischer, Kurtzer, or Mamo acknowledging that Israel’s capture of terrorists is helpful in reducing terrorist violence. Furthermore, since one of the most important reforms that the Palestinian Authority must undertake is to defeat the terrorists, Israel’s encirclement of the terrorists is in fact crucial to promoting Palestinian Arab reforms.

One of the fifty fugitive terrorists hiding in Arafat’s headquarters is Mahmoud Damra, the Ramallah-area commander of Arafat’s Force 17. In early 2001, a group of Force 17 terrorists captured by Israel confessed to a series of attacks, including the October 30, 2000 murder of U.S. citizen Esh-Kodesh Gilmore (whose parents are from Ohio and New Jersey) and the December 31, 2000 attack in which U.S. citizens Binyamin and Talia Kahane (from New York) were murdered, and five of their children were wounded. The terrorists said they operated under the direct command of Mahmoud Damra. (Jerusalem Post, Jan. 28, 2001, March 16, 2001 & April 24, 2001)

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said: “The Bush administration should be pressuring Arafat to surrender the wanted terrorists, not pressuring Israel to stop demanding their surrender. Mahmoud Damra, the killer of Americans who is being sheltered by Arafat, should be indicted and arrested by the United States. The Bush administration’s pressure on Israel to refrain from strong anti-terrorist actions makes a mockery of President Bush’s pledge to fight terrorism around the world.”

In response to the claim by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer that “there had been a sustained period of quiet without homicide bombings in Israel” (New York Times, Sept. 22, 2002), the ZOA points out that during the seven weeks from the July 31, 2002 bombing at Hebrew University until the suicide bombings of September 17, 2002 — the period of alleged “quiet” — there were, in fact, 209 terrorist attacks or attempted attacks, in which 17 people were murdered and 132 wounded. (For a complete list, call the ZOA at 212-481-1500.)

They included three failed “mega attacks” —in which Israeli officials estimated hundreds, or even thousands of people, would have been killed: the August 7 bomb attack on a fuel truck in Rishon LeTzion and the interception of massive car-bombs on August 21 and September 5.

There were also eight attempted suicide bombings. On August 5, a suicide terrorist blew himself up prematurely on his way to a mass attack in the vicinity of Afula. Suicide bombers who were preparing their explosives or were on their way to carry out attacks were intercepted north of Jenin (Aug.16); near Shavei Shomron (Aug.22); in Salfit (Aug.25); in northern Samaria (Aug.27); in Kod, west of Jenin (Sept.2); in Shechem [Nablus] (Sept.4); and north of Tulkarm (Sept.4).

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