By Paul Clarke
While Palestinian police were gradually replacing the withdrawing Israeli soldiers in Jericho and the Gaza Strip, Israel launched new terror raids against Arab towns in Lebanon and the West Bank, under the pretext of hunting down fighters of the Islamic organisations Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas on the West Bank.
The raids started on May 22, when Israeli commandos captured Hamas leader Mustafa Dirani in the Lebanese town of Qasr Naba. The pretext for this raid was to try to establish the whereabouts of an Israeli airman missing after having been shot down in 1988, believed to be a prisoner of the Hezbollah.
At the same time, Israeli helicopter gunships attacked villages in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, alleged to be strongholds of the Hezbollah.
On May 23 the Israeli Defence Force used anti-tank rockets to demolish houses in Hebron allegedly used by Hamas fighters. Despite the scale of the attacks, only one Hamas fighter was said to have been killed. The raid into Hebron was particularly provocative, since the town was the scene of the March massacre by an Israeli settler of more than 40 Arabs worshipping in a mosque.
Armed Israeli settlers have been involved in frequent conflicts with Palestinians in the town, and the Palestinian population has repeatedly been put under curfew there.
Israeli jets launched numerous attacks on southern Lebanese villages around Nabatiyeh on May 25, again under the pretext of targeting Hezbollah fighters. The number of people killed in these raids is not known.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation condemned the attacks as "aimed at the Palestinian security forces and their responsibilities".
Despite their common Islamic ideology and opposition to the Israel-PLO peace process, Hamas and Hezbollah do not cooperate. The base of Hamas is among Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza, whereas the mainly Lebanese Hezbollah organisation is politically linked to, and heavily financed by, Iran; its ideology is specifically Shiite whereas Hamas are Sunni Muslims.
Meanwhile, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Shmuel Meir, a leader of the right-wing National Religious Party, has offered a prize to anyone who assassinates PLO leader Yasser Arafat.