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PA Defies Israel, Re-Opens PLO Headquarters in Jerusalem

Palestinian Authority officials ignored Israel’s extension this week of a ban on PA institutions in Jerusalem, & partially reopened Orient House.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 2/18/2008, 1:18 PM

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) ignored the government’s decision to extend the closure of PA institutions in the capital this week, and partially reopened Orient House, the official headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem.

On its website, Orient House is describe as being “the national headquarters of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem” that serves “the well-being of the Palestinian civilian population in Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem.”

PA officials have begun to arrange meetings with foreign diplomats there and in other PA institutions in the eastern section of the capital, according to Voice of Israel government radio.

An aide to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad confirmed that security and intelligence officers are now operating in eastern Jerusalem on a limited basis, although formal PA departments have not reopened in Orient House. The move is a violation of an Israeli ban on any official PLO presence in the capital.

Hatim Abdul-Qadir, a Fatah leader and PA government aide for Jerusalem affairs, confirmed in an interview with the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency that he and other PA officials have been holding meetings with foreign dignitaries at the building.

Abdul-Qadir further admitted that PA security and intelligence officers are also now working out of Orient House, but claimed they do not carry weapons, do not wear military uniforms and are not authorized to make arrests. The senior aide added that the security and intelligence operatives "help resolve certain problems and collect information about the construction of Israeli settlements in [eastern] Jerusalem."
  
The move comes in defiance of a decision by the Israeli government to extend by a year the closure of all PA institutions in Jerusalem, including the Orient House.

The government’s decision comes in the wake of incessant and increasingly deadly attacks against Israeli civilians by PA terrorists - including firebombings, rock attacks, shootings, stabbings, suicide bombings and kidnappings - from Samaria in the north all the way south to the separation barrier with Gaza. Arabs in Gaza have attacked Israel with mortar shells and Kassam rockets more than 700 times since the beginning of this year.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas slammed Israel's decision Saturday during a joint news conference with visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who joined him in condemning the extended closure of PA institutions in the eastern section of Jerusalem.

Orient House, which has operated as PLO headquarters, was shut down by the government in response to the August 9, 2001 Sbarro restaurant massacre in downtown Jerusalem. A suicide bomber murdered 15 people, including 7 children, and wounded 130 others in and around the popular pizza restaurant.
 
The massive attack was carried out less than a year after the outbreak of the Oslo War, referred to by some as the Second Intifada. Thousands of Kassam rocket and mortar attacks have since battered communities in the western Negev, most targeting the city of Sderot, located less than a mile away from Gaza.