In an interview with the Independent at his office in the Syrian capital, Dr Fathi Shkaki, the founder of Islamic Jihad, who once worked as a doctor at the Augusta Princess Hospital in Jerusalem, declared himself unworried by America's freezing of extremists' assets in the United States and said that he knew one of the suicide bombers.
Although he did not order the bombings, Dr Shkaki described how the two Islamic Jihad members reconnoitred the bus stop on the Natanya road and planned to set off their explosives several seconds apart so that the second bomber would kill the Israeli soldiers running to the aid of colleagues. Some young Palestinians joining Islamic Jihad were now asking for suicide. Of President Bill Clinton's much-publicised freezing of Islamic Jihad's "assets" in the US, Dr Shkaki remarked: "We don't have any assets in America or in any European country. We never received any donations from the US. I can't understand this except as propaganda. President Clinton has launched a new crusade against the Arab and Islamic nation."
Dr Shkaki, who laughed and sometimes giggled during the interview, seemed equally unconcerned at the telephone call made by Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State, to the Syrian foreign minister asking Syria to "give no further sanctuary to terrorists".
Syria gave no "material support" to Islamic Jihad and he claimed that his movement had no official ties with the Syrian authorities. It had no "institutions or infrastructure" in Damascus, but he would move to another capital if Syria wished.
In a separate interview, Mohamed Salman, the Syrian minister of information, said that no "military operations" were initiated in Damascus; they came from inside Israel and the occupied territories. Dr Shkaki revealed that he had visited Iran at least five times since his deportation from Israel in 1988 but described claims of massive Iranian assistance as exaggerated. "The Islamic Republic of Iran supports the Palestinians politically and morally . . . our organisation gets some support for the families of martyrs." Iranian financial support was "very limited", he added.
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