Vilna'i: Let DFLP leader visit Ramallah

Nayef Hawatmeh plans to enter area for first time since '67 for PLO meeting.

ahmed jibril 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
ahmed jibril 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel should consider allowing Nayef Hawatmeh, the Damascus-based founder and leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, into Ramallah, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i said Friday. Vilna'i said that since Hawatmeh wouldn't be entering Israel and would be in the Palestinian Authority for a short time only, Israel should weigh permitting him to visit. "Even though he was a man who dealt in terror, under the current circumstances he appears to be someone who can assist in shifting the balance in favor of the moderate Palestinian front," Vilna'i said. Earlier Friday, Israel Radio reported that the PA has asked Israel to allow Hawatmeh into Ramallah. Hawatmeh was planning to participate in Wednesday's Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Assembly meeting, organized by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to unite all the Palestinian factions against Hamas. If permission is granted to Hawatmeh, the visit will be his first to the West Bank since the Six Day War. The Prime Minister's Office denied on Friday a Lebanese newspaper report that Israel had already given permission for Hawatmeh's entry. The DFLP, a Marxist-Leninist group, was founded in 1969. After Jordan expelled the PLO in 1970, the DFLP operated out of Lebanon, then Syria. One of the group's most notorious attacks was the raid on a school in Ma'alot in 1974, when a squad of DFLP terrorists took over a school where dozens of children on a field trip from Safed were sleeping. Twenty-four people, most of them children, were killed in the attack. Environment Minister Gideon Ezra was in favor of letting the DFLP leader visit the West Bank, saying that Israel must help the Palestinian Authority "in every move against Hamas." Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim, however, opposed Hawatmeh's possible arrival saying that Israel had a "bloody score to settle with the man responsible for the slaughter in Ma'alot." Also Friday, the Kuwaiti Kabas newspaper reported that Fatah and the PA were preparing to forcefully regain control of Gaza. Kabas claimed that Hamas would be given an ultimatum to surrender or join the Palestinian security forces and, if it did not comply, Fatah threatened to "put an end to the current illegal situation in the Gaza Strip." Egypt warned Fatah against the move, saying it would cause an unprecedented escalation in the region. Khaled Abu Toameh and AP contributed to this report