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Radical Palestinians Issue Death Threats in Denouncing Accord : Mideast: Amid vows of more violence, Arafat's assassination is predicted.

September 11, 1993|MARK FINEMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DAMASCUS, Syria — In a flurry of death threats and angry rhetoric, radical Palestinian groups that represent the most potent guerrilla forces in the Israeli occupied territories rejected on Friday the Palestine Liberation Organization's peace accord with Israel and vowed to continue their attacks.

"Today is a black day for all Palestinians," declared Ahmed Jibril, whose Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command has taken responsibility for the brutal killing of several Israeli soldiers and attacks on Jewish settlers recently.

Jibril, who predicted in an interview that PLO leader Yasser Arafat will be assassinated by fellow Palestinians, added: "Time will prove that this is not a peace agreement."

Another Palestinian extremist group based in Syria, a breakaway wing of Arafat's Fatah faction of the PLO, said in Damascus that it was "sanctioning the shedding of the blood of this traitor." The group appealed to "all Palestinian guerrilla factions to constitute a temporary leadership for the Palestine Liberation Organization," the umbrella group for many Palestinian political factions.

The angry pronouncements mirrored anti-accord demonstrations by right-wing Israelis, who have demonstrated against the peace plan in the streets of Jerusalem. But in the case of the Damascus-based radical and fundamentalist Palestinian groups that have waged a campaign of guerrilla war and terror against Israel's occupation forces, Friday's threats against Arafat and his peace initiative underscored continuing concern about a potential Palestinian civil war.

In contrast to the angry rhetoric from the groups that Syria permits to be based here, official reaction in Damascus was restrained and noncommittal.

President Hafez Assad made no public statements on the mutual recognition declaration. The Syrian government did launch what one diplomat called "a trial balloon," giving broad coverage to the signing of the historic accord on the front page of the regime's daily newspaper, Al Thawra--the first prominent mention of the Israeli-Palestinian accord since it became public two weeks ago.

But the newspaper gave equally prominent coverage to the radical Palestinians' threats against Arafat and their warnings of looming civil war.

Through their rhetoric, many of the extremist leaders criticized Arafat most sharply for failing to put the peace proposals to the Palestinian people before unilaterally signing the declarations.

"Arafat violated all democratic principles by refusing to return to his people through a vote," declared Nayef Hawatmeh, leader of the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. "This new farce and new tragedy is an indication of the expected practices of the self-rule authority under the sponsorship of Israeli military rule."

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, led by George Habash, simply declared: "As far as the PFLP is concerned, our battle will only be with Israel."

The groups have wide popular support in the territories, particularly in the impoverished Gaza Strip. Although Hawatmeh and the PFLP stopped short of calling for violent opposition to Arafat and the peace accord on the ground, few of the other Damascus-based groups showed similar restraint.

Speaking to reporters in Lebanon, where criticism of Arafat and his declarations of peace with Israel was far more public and unrestrained, Shafik Hout, until recently one of Arafat's top military commanders, warned that the internal conflict was pushing the Palestinians toward civil war.

"What will Arafat's gendarmes (the future Palestinian police force in the territories) do when Palestinians demonstrate for Jerusalem and the return of the 1967 refugees to their villages?" asked Hout, a close friend of Arafat's for 30 years. His resignation just days before the accord became public devastated the PLO leader.

"These gendarmes will take the place of the Israelis. . . . Instead of solving problems, we've created more."

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