NEW YORK- A senior Palestinian Authority official has for the first time publicly acknowledged that the PA knows the identity of the terrorists who murdered three Americans in Gaza last year — but he says the PA will not arrest them.
Musa Arafat, the head of PA Military Intelligence and a cousin of PA chairman Yasir Arafat, told Reuters (Sept.22, 2004) said that “Palestinian security forces know who was behind the killing of three Americans in Gaza nearly a year ago but cannot act against the factions while fighting with Israel continues.”
The three murdered Americans were John Branchizio, 37, of Texas, John Linde Jr., 30, of Missouri, and Mark Parsons, 31, of New Jersey. They were security personnel guarding a convoy of U.S. diplomatic vehicles that was attacked by Palestinian Arab terrorists at the Beit Hanoun junction in the Gaza Strip on October 15, 2003.
In response to the PA officials’ startling admission, the Zionist Organization of America is urging the Bush administration to respond by immediately withdrawing its opposition to the Koby Mandell Act, which would create a special office in the Justice Department to focus on capturing Palestinian Arab murderers of Americans.
The PA official’s admission comes two months after State Department official David Satterfield said at a Senate hearing (on July 20, 2004), regarding the PA’s failure to arrest the killers: “There has been no satisfactory resolution of this case. We can only conclude that there has been a political decision taken by the chairman to block further progress in this investigation.”
Until Satterfield’s statement, the Bush administration had maintained that the PA was trying, but was unable, to capture the terrorists involved in the murders of 51 American citizens in Israel and the territories since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993.
The ZOA is also urging the Bush administration to:
* Demand that the PA hand over Abd Al-Aziz Awda, whom the U.S. indicted in February 2003 as the founder and “spiritual leader” of an Islamic Jihad terror cell whose victims included Alisa Flatow of West Orange, NJ, a 20 year-old Brandeis University junior, who was murdered in a bombing near Kfar Darom on April 9, 1995; and Shoshana Ben-Yishai, 16, of Queens, NY, who was murdered in a shooting attack on a bus in Jerusalem on November 9, 2001. Awda is head of the Al Qassam Mosque in the PA-controlled Gaza Strip.
* Place advertisements in Palestinian Arab newspapers, offering monetary rewards for the information leading to the capture of Palestinian Arab murderers of Americans. The State Department offers such rewards on its web site, but has not advertised them among the Palestinian Arabs themselves — even though in other cases of overseas murders of Americans, ads are routinely placed in local newspapers.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said: “This is a crucial moment in America’s war against terrorism. The administration says the PA has made a political decision not to capture the killers. The PA admits it knows who the killers are, but refuses to capture them. If the U.S. fails to take swift and decisive action against the PA, terrorists everywhere will conclude that they can murder Americans with impunity, and pro-terror regimes will conclude that they can shelter killers of Americans without any fear of serious consequences.”