A member of the Palestinian terrorist squad that killed six Jewish settlers here last May said today that volunteers from six ideologically diverse guerrilla groups put aside their differences and trained intensively in the Soviet Union as a cohesive and single-purposed unit.
"Naturally, there were political differences. But we do not allow these differences to affect our behavior, becuase our goal is a common one -- to liberate our country," said Adnan Jaber, 32, a West Bank Palestinian.
Jaber, in a 2 1/2-hour interview in the Hebron military prison, where he and three other Palestinians are awaiting trail for the May 2 Hebron killings, offered details of his training in Syria, Lebanon and the Soviet Union, as well as an account of how he infiltrated into Jordan and then the deadliest terrorist attack in the West Bank in the 13 years that Israel has occupied the territory.
Jaber said he had no misgivings about disclosing details of his training and his methods of infiltrating the heavily patrolled Isaeli border, because the Palestine Liberation Organization, to which he belongs, constantly changes its tactics to avoid patterns that can be detected by Israeli security forces.
"What I tell you belongs to the past. We change our techniques every day, so I don't feel I am embarrassing my leaders," he said.
One of the most revealing aspects of Jaber's disclosures was that young Palestinian guerrillas from PLO factions as diverse as Yasser Arafat's mainline Fatah and Nayef Hawatmeh's Marxist-oriented Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine routinely and easily blend together in mixed training units, both in the Soviet Union and at guerrilla bases in Lebanon and Syria.
Jaber said his group of 21 guerrillas underwent training for six month's just outside Moscow and included only six members of Fatah. The others, he said, were from the Hawatmeh's Popular Democratic Front, the Iraqi-backed Arab Liberation Front, George Habash's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Syrian-backed Saiqa and a small splinter group, the Popular Struggle Front.
"Every group had its own political ideas, but we didn't allow this to interrupt the program. We had a dialogue, and there were disagreements. But we stayed together," Jaber said.
The interview, arrannged by the Israeli Army, was conducted in Arabic through a Palestinian interpreter retained by The Washington Post. There were no guards in the room.
Jaber said he grew up in the West Bank village of Tayasir and fled to Jordan with his father during the 1967 Six-Day War. He joined a PLO political cell in 1968 and was sent to Syria in 1970 for military training, he said.
After serving in Lebanon with Fatah, Jaber said he boarded an Aeroflot airliner in Damascus on March 14, 1974, with 20 other guerrillas, dressed in civilian clothes and carrying forged passports. He said that on arrival his group was taken by bus from Moscow airport to the town of Skhodnya, about 20 miles from the capital, where there was a large "country house" used as a barracks and training center.
He said that for the next six months, he received instructions in the use of AK47 Kalashnikov assault rifles and other light arms, explosives, command techniques and topgraphy. Classes were held daily from 8 a.m., to 4 p.m., taught by uniformed Soviet instructors with Arabic-speaking Russians as interpreters.
He said he saw no maps of Israel and that instruction focused on theory and general military tactics rather than on specific targets. He said that while most PLO guerrillas who receive training outside the Arab world go to the Soviet Union, some are sent to Vietnam and North Korea.
After finishing his training and serving with Fatah in Lebanon during the 1975-76 war there, Jaber said, he received orders to infiltrate into Jordan and the West Bank. He said he walked into Jordan at night, with the help of a PLO guide, and stayed in Amman for 45 days until his control agent from Beirut -- a man he identified as "Abu Hassan" -- arrived with orders to move into Israeli-held territory.
Jaber said that on the night of June 15, 1979, he and other guerrilla were escorted by a guide to the Jordan River, where they crossed, carrying their rifles in bags, and scaled a security fence.
"We were aware of the border security measures, and we knew we would be detected. But our plan was to leave the border as quickly as possible before a patrol could reach us, and get to a waiting car," Jaber said.
He said the pickup car took them barely a mile -- "just far enough to confuse the patrol" -- and that they first made their way to Jaber's home village. Later, Jaber moved to the hills surrounding Hebron, where he and his squad members lived in caves and planned their terrorist attack.
"Our orders were to clash with the soldiers and settlers of Hebron. We worked out the details," Jaber said.
He said that two weeks before the ambush he scouted the hill overlooking the Hadassah Clinic to which Jewish settlers often walk after Sabbath services in the nearby Tomb of the Patriarchs. On May 2, the guerrillas returned and waited for darkness.
"I was on the roof opposite the building, with a Kalashnikov. We had our orders. The moment we saw armed people, we opend fire," Jaber said, visibly uncomfortable at recounting the ambush.
Although Jaber sought to convey the impression that he and his men attacked a military target, the six dead and 16 wounded were civilians. Some of the settlers, however, were carrying arms. Soldiers guarding the clinic immediately opened fire. After emptying their weapons and throwing hand grenades, the attackers fled.
Asked if the ambush frightened him, Jaber replied, "Frankly and honestly, life and death are equal to me. Even before the operation, we used to treat life as death. The main thing is that the revolution continues and our people win the struggle.
"We are not adventurers, and we are not great lovers of fighting. Only our cause obliges us to adopt such methods. It is a matter of national pride to cross the borders of four countries and arrive to my homeland to conduct an operation like this," he said.
Four months later, after hiding in the caves to elude Israeli search teams, Jaber and his companions were arrested trying to cross the Jordan River to safety.
"I would have been willing to die," Jaber said, relecting on his odyssey and its unexpected conclusion. "Besides, our religious belief [Islam] considers those who die in battle to have eached a most prestigious death. I have no regrets."