The Palestinian Authority (PA) is making efforts to bring the leader of a terrorist group to live in the areas assigned to it in Judea and Samaria, the PA-based WAFA news agency reports.
The man, Nayef Hawatmeh, is the leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), one of the main factions in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Qais Abdul Karim, known by the nom de guerre Abu Laila, said the PA has contacted Israel to allow Hawatmeh to come and live in the PA, according to WAFA.
He told the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper that even though Hawatmeh has obtained a national number that would allow him to take up residence in areas controlled by the PA, Israel still puts obstacles in the way of his return.
Hawatmeh, 74, joined the PLO in 1968 as one of the leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). He later broke away from the PFLP and established the DFLP on February 22, 1969, which he has been heading since then.
The DFLP was behind a 1974 terror attack in Israel known as the Ma'alot massacre, which included a two-day hostage-taking of 115 people which ended in the deaths of over 25 hostages.
The attack began when three armed terrorists from the DFLP entered Israel from Lebanon. They attacked a van, killing two Israeli Arab women while injuring a third and entered an apartment building in the town of Ma'alot, where they killed a couple and their four-year-old son. From there, they headed for the Netiv Meir Elementary School in the town, where they took more than 115 people (including 105 children) hostage on May 15 1974.
Most of the hostages were teenagers from a high school in Tzfat who were on a field trip spending the night in Ma’alot. The hostage-takers soon issued demands for the release of 23 terrorists from Israeli prisons, or else they would kill the students. On the second day of the standoff, a unit of the Golani Brigade stormed the building. During the takeover, the hostage-takers killed the children with grenades and automatic weapons.
Hawatmeh got a national number as a result of the 1993 Oslo Accords that would have allowed him to return to live in areas assigned to the PA. However, he opted to stay abroad, WAFA reported.
Some reports said Israel has conditioned Hawatmeh’s return on the DFLP disavowing armed struggle.
However, Abdul Karim denied that there was such a condition, saying he never heard of it, insisting instead that the Israeli ban is political because Israel “does not want more nationalist leaders, such as Hawatmeh,” to live inside the PA.
Israel “wants to deny him the right to live in his homeland and to return to his country because of his political stand,” he claimed.
There has been no official response so far from Israel on the issue.
Hawatmeh currently resides in Syria, where the ongoing civil war has spilled into Yarmouk, an area of Damascus which serves as a camp for people registered as "Palestinian refugees."
Yarmouk is a suburb of Damascus that began as a refugee camp for Arabs who had fled Israel in times of war, and their descendants. Originally home to more than 150,000 residents, Yarmouk became a ghost town in December, with some 90 percent of its people having fled the violence. Many of the residents later returned as the fighting died down.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had asked the UN to take the first step towards flooding Israel with foreign Arabs by suggesting the fleeing Syrian “refugees” move to the PA.
Abbas recently claimed in an interview with a Hizbullah-affiliated Lebanese network that Israel had agreed to the request to allow the “refugees” into the PA and said that Hawatmeh was included in the request.
Israel, however, said that there had never been a formal PA request to allow “Palestinian refugees” from Syria, only initial contacts which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected outright.