Israel today condemned the attack on Rome's main synagogue yesterday and declared that the Italian government, Pope John Paul II and others who have dealt with the Palestine Liberation Organization must share in the responsibility for it.
Deputy Foreign Minister Yehuda Ben-Meir, speaking for the Foreign Ministry while Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir is in the United States, said that because the Italian government allows a PLO office to operate in the country it "cannot free itself from responsibility for terrorist activities within its territory."
In Rome, Italian Jewish leaders today sharply condemned Italy's politicians, trade union leaders and press organs who, they said, had helped in recent weeks to create the climate of anti-Semitism that fostered the attack on the synagogue, special correspondent Sari Gilbert reported. A 2-year-old boy was killed in the attack and 34 people were wounded.
Groups of Roman Jewish youths patrolled the halls of the hospitals where 27 of the wounded are still being treated. One of the victims, the 4-year-old brother of the boy killed yesterday, was still in critical condition at San Camillo hospital, where doctors operated to remove hand-grenade fragments from his head and chest.
In Jerusalem, Ben-Meir said:
"The PLO is the center of international terrorism, and anyone conducting discussions and negotiations with it encourages such criminal actions. These governments in Europe that have tried to save the defeated PLO cannot wash their hands from this wave of anti-Semitic violence."
Foreign Ministry officials made clear that the statement was directed not only at European governments but at the pope, whose meeting last month with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat deeply angered the Israelis.
The PLO's representative in Italy condemned the attack on the synagogue. Israeli officials acknowledged they have no evidence directly linking the PLO to the attack. But they said the assault was clearly the work of professional terrorists and that because "all terrorist groups [in Italy] are connected with the PLO" the PLO is at least indirectly responsible, as are those who offer it "encouragement."
Yesterday, one of Israel's two chief rabbis, Shlomo Goren, said the pope was to blame for the attack on the Jewish worshippers. Goren said the pope's reception of Arafat had encouraged PLO terrorist activities. The PLO chief visited Rome in mid-September to attend the Interparliamentary Union Conference of 91 countries and was received by both the pope and by Italian President Sandro Pertini.
Correspondent Gilbert added from Rome:
Feeling against the pope and Pertini was so strong in Rome's Jewish community yesterday that a Jewish leader persuaded Pertini not to visit the scene of the attack, a spokesman for the Union of Jewish Communities said.
Pope John Paul today sharply condemned the attack on the synagogue as an example of "anti-Semitic hatred."
Meanwhile, Rome police issued descriptions of three of the five men who attacked the crowd of worshippers outside the synagogue, throwing several hand grenades and firing bursts from machine guns. One police source described the attackers as "professionals" and said they probably were "Middle-Easterners." The police said the grenades, like the bullets used, were of a type manufactured in Eastern Europe.