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At 17, Veteran Terrorist Says He Is Eager to Die for the Palestinian Cause

April 13, 1986|CHARLES J. HANLEY | Associated Press

"Why do you think all these young people risk their lives?" a prominent Palestinian moderate, Hazem Nuseibeh, asked in an interview in Amman, where he serves as a Jordanian Cabinet minister.

"They risk their lives, sometimes misguidedly, because they are homeless, desperate. They feel they are victims of tremendous injustice."

The guerrilla groups offer a purpose, comradeship, a little money--often about $300 a month.

By Israeli count, the more than one dozen groups have at least 20,000 guerrillas, about 6,000 based in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley of eastern Lebanon and 3,000 more in Syria itself.

Syria a Conduit

A poor country, Soviet-aligned Syria can offer no direct financial help to the guerrillas, but it serves as a conduit for money from other Arab states and for guerrilla arms purchases, Israelis and U.S. officials said.

It also offers safe havens, such as Yarmouk, on the fringes of this city of French-style boulevards and teeming old bazaars.

Once a Palestinian tent camp, now a slum of 40,000 people jammed into crude two-story concrete homes, Yarmouk provides rest and recreation for young Popular Struggle Front guerrillas on leave from their Bekaa base.

Same and his comrades played chess, read and discussed irrhap --"terrorism" in Arabic--with their visitor.

Told that Abu Nidal's gunmen cut down children in the Rome-Vienna attacks, they expressed surprise.

"I didn't know about innocent victims. . . ," 22-year-old Ali Kasem said uneasily. But then bloody memories flooded back.

"There were innocents in Sabra and Chatilla, too!" he said angrily. "What about that! Was that a good job?"

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