Deputy Secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Abdel Rahim Mallouh has said that the Palestinian Authority should release his comrades arrested after the PFLP took responsibility for the shooting death of an Israeli cabinet minister.
Speaking from an undisclosed location by telephone, Mallouh called for the strengthening of national unity among Palestinians. Many PFLP officials and activists have gone into hiding since Israeli authorities commenced a widespread hunt for activists that might know anything about the killing of Rehavam Zeevy on October 17.
Two days before the assassination, Israel had begun to ease some of the many travel restrictions imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The decision to do so came after Israeli-Palestinian talks jump- started by a meeting between Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that produced a draft for a ceasefire between the two sides.
Still, Israel maintained its policy of assassinating Palestinian activists. On October 14, Israel assassinated 34-year-old Abdel Rahman Hammad, a leading member of Hamas’ military wing Izzedin Al Qassam from Qalqilya. One day later, a bomb exploded in the car of Hamas activist Ahmad Marshoud from Nablus.
On the morning of October 17, outside a suite at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Jerusalem, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine took a giant leap in the methods of Palestinian resistance by assassinating Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevy. The Front announced that the killing was carried out in retaliation for Israel’s assassination of PFLP secretary general Abu Ali Mustapha in August.
“A new era has begun. Everything has changed and nothing will be as it was. We will fight a merciless war against the terrorists,” said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during a Knesset session in honor of the assassinated minister.
The Israeli army then reinstated all roadblocks and stopped Palestinian-Israeli contacts. The next night, a car bomb that appeared to be Israel’s handiwork killed three Fateh activists in Bethlehem, including the local head of Fateh, Atef Abeyat. The Israeli army proceeded to reoccupy areas under Palestinian control in six different cities, invasions that caused the deaths of over 31 Palestinians.
“These measures are evidence that Sharon’s government wants to continue its war, it intends to eliminate the Palestinian Authority and kill any possibility for a new start to the peace process. Sharon wants to return the situation to what it was before Oslo and Madrid,” said Palestinian Minister of Culture and Information Yasser Abed Rabbo, referring to peace agreements between Israel and Palestinians.
The minister also condemned the assassination of Zeevy. “We oppose the assassination and we will take the appropriate steps against those who carried it out.”
The Palestinian Authority had already issued an official condemnation of the assassination and Arafat ordered that the perpetrators be pursued. Al Ayyam newspaper was told by officials that the Abu Ali Mustapha brigades – a military wing of the PFLP – had been outlawed and its members wanted by the Authority. He also said that eight of the Front’s highest-ranking leaders had been arrested, including PFLP spokesperson Ali Jaradat.
In the interview with Palestine Report, Mallouh blamed the current escalation on the Israeli government, which began and recently resumed the policy of assassinations. He said that Zeevy’s assassination was carried out in the context of self-defense and within the framework of a people’s resistance against those who occupy it.
Mallouh called on Arafat to act wisely and objectively, which he says is the only way to overcome the current crisis. He insisted that the PFLP is intent on preserving national unity “under any circumstances.”
On October 19, the Authority said it considered anyone breaking the ceasefire to have broken Palestinian laws, despite that tanks sit inside the municipal borders of six Palestinian towns. The Palestinian Authority said that those people would have contributed to escalating the situation, which only serves the “enemies of peace and Israeli plans.”
“Palestinian blood is not cheaper than Israeli blood,” he says, matter-of-fact.
Noora has been visiting friends and family more and more often. Not a day goes by without someone visiting someone else. And they always take their kids with them.