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S P E C I A L Struggle for Peace

Netanyahu in spotlight as assassination plot unravels

newspaper photo

Israeli Cabinet discusses failed attempt on Hamas leader

October 5, 1997
Web posted at: 1:17 p.m. EDT (1717 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met top Cabinet officials Sunday to discuss the assassination attempt on Khaled Mashaal, a militant leader of the fundamentalist Hamas movement. The Cabinet again refused to say whether the Israeli secret service Mossad had been involved, but sources told CNN that Netanyahu personally ordered the attack.

CNN's Walter Rodgers reports on the events
icon 2 min. 45 sec. VXtreme video

Alleged Mossad agents carrying Canadian passports reportedly tried to kill Mashaal in Amman 10 days ago by injecting him with a toxic substance.

Sources told CNN the following information regarding the incident:

-- Netanyahu wanted Mashaal killed, overruling objections of some Cabinet members, and ignoring an offer from Hamas for a 10-year cessation of hostilities and bombings.

-- Once it was known that the assassination had failed, Netanyahu called King Hussein of Jordan, saying, "We have a problem."

-- Hussein considered recalling his ambassador to Israel and demanded that Netanyahu provide the poison antidote.

-- Netanyahu first refused to do so, but changed his mind after U.S. President Bill Clinton intervened. Clinton was quoted as saying of Netanyahu: "I cannot deal with this man. He is impossible."

Mashaal

Israeli media have now swung into investigating what one newspaper headline called the "sordid business in Jordan."

Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh refused to confirm or deny that Netanyahu had ordered the assassination, as Israeli news reports have claimed.

"Israel is prevented at this stage from making references to reports about action against Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal," Naveh said after the Cabinet meeting.

However, he did tell reporters that Mashaal "is considered the number one figure in Hamas and is responsible for the murder of many innocent Israeli civilians."

"The government's obligation is to protect the lives of its citizens and to wage an uncompromising campaign against terrorism," he said.

King Hussein: 'This worries me a lot'

Mashaal's life reportedly was saved when an Israeli doctor delivered an antidote for the poison.

However, the alleged government involvement has rocked relations with Jordan and Canada.

Canada recalled its ambassador from Israel in protest at the use of Canadian passports in the attack. And while Jordan's King Hussein did not specifically tie Israel to the attack, he said Israel should respect the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries.

"I personally can't figure out what the Israeli prime minister is thinking of, and this worries me a lot," the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted the king as saying.

Yassin

Israeli reports described Israel's release to Jordan last week of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas' ailing spiritual leader, as part of a swap for the two men held by Jordan in the attack on Mashaal. The king denied there was any such deal.

Jordanian and Hamas officials said Yassin would be flown to his home in the Gaza Strip on Monday.

Israeli, Palestinian talks set for Monday

Despite the latest tension in the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians were to sit down for face-to-face talks on Monday.

U.S. special envoy Dennis Ross will join the two sides at their first talks since a six-month-old stalemate kept the sides from implementing existing peace deals.

Last week in New York, after meeting top PLO negotiator Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced that Israeli and Palestinian negotiating committees would resume work on implementing issues left over from existing deals.

Correspondents Jerrold Kessel, Walter Rodgers, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Struggle For Peace

 
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