The Israeli government launched a campaign today intended to demonstrate through selective release of classified intelligence that a recent surge in terrorist activity was ordered by top Palestine Liberation Organization officials in Jordan after the start of the joint Jordanian-PLO peace initiative early this year.
The campaign is intended to prove that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat never accepted the premise of the peace initiative upon which he agreed with Jordan's King Hussein, Foreign Ministry officials say. It is based on a long paper containing what is said to be previously undisclosed detail about PLO operations in Jordan's capital, Amman.
Although much of the intelligence is fragmented and would prove little more than that the PLO has not abandoned its armed struggle against Israel, the document illustrates Israel's formidable surveillance capability and its apparent ease in reaching into the heart of a hostile Arab capital to monitor an enemy's secret movements.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said the document was drafted to counter suggestions by Middle Eastern leaders such as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that Arafat had abandoned the armed struggle against Israel in pursuit of a comprehensive peace through a joint Jordanian-Palestinian initiative.
The document says that since the Feb. 11 signing of the Hussein-Arafat agreement, 380 terror attacks or attempted attacks have been launched against Israel, resulting in 19 deaths and more than 100 persons wounded.
Under questioning, a Foreign Ministry official said the total number of attacks included those "planned" and discovered later by intelligence agencies, but never attempted.
The paper, in draft form in Hebrew, contains operational details about the PLO that the Foreign Ministry said it plans to translate and distribute worldwide in its effort to exclude Arafat and the PLO from the peace process. The final draft is to be released Sunday. Foreign Ministry sources said it was held up by Israel's military censor, who made extensive deletions.
Citing Israeli intelligence sources, the document asserts that last December a meeting was held at Amman's Regency Hotel of senior commanders of the PLO's Force 17, an elite guerrilla group, at which it was decided to escalate terror operations against Israeli targets both here and abroad, and that the attacks would be directed from Jordan.
The Foreign Ministry said that Force 17, originally created with several dozen men as a bodyguard unit for Arafat and other PLO leaders, now has 800 members worldwide and is engaged primarily in "showpiece" terror operations.
Israeli intelligence, according to the Foreign Ministry, learned that the Regency Hotel meeting was led by Force 17's commander, Mahmoud Ahmed Mahmoud Natour, known as Abu Tayib, and included two senior aides, Maj. Assad Bardad and Mohammed Hussein Juma.
The document said Abu Tayib told his aides that the meeting had been called on Arafat's command. The Foreign Ministry said this information was obtained during the interrogation of a Palestinian guerrilla captured aboard a yacht in the Mediterranean in August.
Twice this year, the paper said, Abu Tayib met in Amman with West Bank Palestinians and gave them money to finance terror operations in Israel. The report did not cite the source of that assertion.
The report asserts that Abu Tayib answers directly to Ahmed Ibrahim Ahfania, also known as Abu Mouatzem, head of the operations division of Fatah, Arafat's mainstream faction of the PLO. It also says that the Fatah command based in Amman includes Khalil Wazir, known as Abu Jihad, leader of the Fatah western command; Mahmoud Aoul, commander of operations in the West Bank, and a commander known as Abu Faris, said to be responsible for directing terror attacks in Jerusalem.
The report charges that Mohammed Milhem, the deported mayor of the West Bank village of Halhoul, has been personally involved in Force 17 operations.
Citing interrogation of captured Force 17 members, the report said Milhem, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, is in charge of supplying weapons to the Force 17 unit in Jordan and participated in meetings in Amman in March at which terror operations in the Jenin area of the West Bank were planned.
The report said that in April, a PLO guerrilla unit was sent from North Yemen to the Wahadad Refugee Camp in Amman and placed under Milhem's command. The report attributed that information to a captured Palestinian guerrilla.