Palestinians 'helped Israel find lynching suspects'

Clashes continue despite a CIA-brokered deal with rival security services that leaves just 24 hours for both sides to obey ceasefire
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The Independent Online

The seizure of eight Palestinians suspected of carrying out the lynching of two Israeli reservists has all the hallmarks of the renewed co-operation agreement between Israeli and Palestinian security services under the auspices of the CIA.

The seizure of eight Palestinians suspected of carrying out the lynching of two Israeli reservists has all the hallmarks of the renewed co-operation agreement between Israeli and Palestinian security services under the auspices of the CIA.

Israeli sources hinted that the Palestinian authorities pointed Shin Bet secret service agents towards their target. The Palestinian Authority was embarrassed by the lynching and the broadcast of gory television pictures taken by an Italian crew, which horrified audiences around the world.

The murders took place while the reservists, who had taken a wrong turn, were under arrest in a Palestinian police station, which was besieged by a mob. Palestinian security men subsequently tried to prevent the television crew getting their film out of Ramallah.

In the aftermath of thearrests, the first formal meetings between Israeli, Palestinian and CIA security men took place yesterday, under an unpublished annex to the Sharm el-Sheikh summit agreement. An Israeli government spokesman, Nahman Shai, described the atmosphere at the meeting as "good".

As a result, Israel started to implement its side of the bargain. Crossings between the occupied territories and Egypt and Jordan, which had been closed after the Ramallah lynching, were reopened. So was the Palestinian international airport in Gaza. Israel also lifted its siege on the eight principal West Bank Arab towns, though they will remain out of bounds to Israeli citizens "for their own safety".

However, the Israelis are barring West Bank and Gaza Arabs from entering Israel. That means that up to 110,000 day labourers are unable to get to work at Israeli farms, factories, hotels and building sites.

The Sharm summit allowed Israel and the Palestinians 48 hours to implement a ceasefire. Mr Shai said that began yesterday and would expire tomorrow. Israel was waiting to see if Mr Arafat was willing and able to stop Palestinians attacking Israeli checkpoints and exposed settlements before it eased any more restrictions.

Mr Shai told reporters yesterday: "We now expect the Palestinians to do their share. We expect them to stop the violence." This entailed, he said, rearresting dozens of Hamas and other Islamic militants released after Israel retaliated for the lynching with helicopter strikes on five Palestinian targets in Ramallah and Gaza; stopping incitement to violence in the official and semi-official Palestinian media; and preventing attacks on Israelis.

Clashes continued yesterday, but an Israeli army officer said they were waning. He added that Palestinian police were starting to rein in the stone-throwers.

As a footnote to the Ramallah mayhem, Israel yesterday suspended the press credentials of Riccardo Cristiano, a correspondent who has been covering the West Bank and Gaza for RAI, the Italian state television channel, after Mr Cristiano sent a letter to the Palestinian Authority, distancing RAI from its privately owned competitor, which filmed the killings.

The letter, published in a Palestinian newspaper, stated: "We emphasise to you that we respect the rules of proper journalistic work with the Palestinian Authority, and therefore are doing our job faithfully. Be assured, we would never do such a thing."

RAI ordered Mr Cristiano back to Rome. The corporation's director general, Pier Luigi Celli, said: "He will no longer work from Jerusalem. RAI had no knowledge of the letter he wrote to an Arabic newpaper or of its content. RAI does not agree with the content of that letter."

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