IN his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Wednesday urged Israelis to stick to peace talks with the Palestinians despite the second fatal Arab bus bombing in a week.
The bombing came just before festivities marking Israel's 46th year began. Israelis switched Wednesday evening from commemorating their war dead on Memorial Day to celebrating their independence. Fireworks boomed. People danced in the streets.
But in the midst of it all, the April 13 deadline for the completion of Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and West Bank town of Jericho under the September Palestine Liberation Organization-Israel peace accord passed unfulfilled.
A spokesman for Mr. Rabin says PLO chairman Yasser Arafat telephoned Rabin to denounce Wednesday's bomb attack in which five Israelis were killed and 30 more wounded by a member of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas.
But in a leaflet distributed yesterday, Hamas - a Palestinian faction aimed at derailing the limited self-rule accord - vowed to carry out three more attacks similar to the two recent bombings for which it takes credit. In a leaflet, the Muslim radical group warned Israeli Arabs to avoid public buses and crowded areas. Hamas also scorned Mr. Arafat for speaking out against the bombings.
Rabin rejected right-wing Israeli calls to suspend peace talks and said he would continue to fight for a process badly mauled by violence. Israel and the PLO are anxious to conclude the Gaza-Jericho deal, fearing otherwise that the mounting bloodshed will kill all support for the September peace deal. Lebanon seeks to try diplomats
LEBANON asked Iraq yesterday to lift the immunity of two of its diplomats arrested after the murder in Beirut of an opponent of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, officials said.
The move is aimed at paving the way for putting the diplomats on trial. Iraq denied they were involved in the killing.
The only Lebanese diplomat in Baghdad has been called home, but Foreign Minister Faris Bouez told reporters it was premature to say whether Beirut would cut ties over the killing.
Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Zafer al-Hassan summoned Iraqi Charge D-Affaires Awadh Fakhri yesterday and asked him to lift the immunity of commercial attache Khaled Khalaf and cultural attache Mohamed Kathem, who were arrested Wednesday. The two diplomats were arrested hours after the Tuesday assassination of wealthy Iraqi dissident Taleb-as-Suheil. Lebanese authorities believe the two men are intelligence agents. Egypt announces killing of militant
EGYPT'S top law enforcement official announced Wednesday that police had killed a leading Islamic militant.
The announcement came nearly two weeks after the slaying. Interior minister Hassan al-Alfy gave no reason for the delay. But it follows the radicals' success last week in killing the government official most responsible for tracking down Islamic extremists.
Mr. Alfy announced that Adel Siam, leader of the military wing of Jihad, or holy war, was killed in a police ambush after he shot at encircling forces April 4. The killing of a militant was reported at the time, but no name was made public. The minister said Mr. Siam, an Egyptian who was traveling on a Yemeni passport, organized several assassination attempts against journalists and government officials. But the minister did not name the intended victims of the attacks.
Alfy also said 30 members of the group were arrested, but did not say when. He added that in the past three months, police aborted 20 major operations and apprehended 43 of Egypt's 52 most-wanted militants.
In the two years since the radicals launched their campaign, more than 350 people have been killed. Most have been militants and police, but government officials, Coptic Christians, and four foreign tourists also have died.