Three Israeli civilians were murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Eilat yesterday who was explicitly fulfilling the request of PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinians stop fighting each other and start aiming their weapons against Israel.

“Our rifles, all our rifles are being aimed at the enemy,” declared a masked spokesman for the Islamic Jihad terror organization shortly after the bomb attack on a bakery in the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat.

Jihad’s statement copied Dr. Abbas’s call-two weeks ago-for Palestinian unity and for attacking Israeli “occupation” instead of “brother” Palestinians. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by Palestinians in the last six months of what the Arabs call “felataan amni”-security chaos, more than 40 in the last five days alone.

“Let a thousand flowers bloom, and let our rifles, all our rifles, all our rifles, be aimed at the Occupation,” declared Abbas in a public rally that was aired on Palestinian television and radio on January 11, but his words were largely ignored by the Western press and diplomatic corps.

Official Palestinian television reported last night (January 29, 5 p.m. English broadcast) that the attack was carried out by the Islamic Jihad with the help of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade of the Fatah organization, that is headed by Abbas.

Abbas himself, who heads the PLO, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, did not issue a clear condemnation of the attack, though some Israeli media and diplomats reported that he had.

In fact, the state media controlled by Abbas, such as the Al-Quds newspaper, referred to the human bomber as a “shahid” or martyr, a title of honor, while Palestinian radio in Arabic-Sawt Felasteen-called the attack on Eilat “amaliyya tafjeeriyya”-an explosive operation.

Only late in the day yesterday did Voice of Palestine radio issue a minor report stating that one of Abbas’s aides, Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, said the Palestinian leadership opposed attacks on civilians. Neither Abbas nor Abdul-Rahman appeared on radio or tv to make the statement themselves.

After yesterday’s terror attack in Eilat, the Islamic Jihad spokesman gave detailed biographical information about the bomber, Muhammad Faisal Al-Siqsiq, who, he said, had carried out the murders with the help of Jihad and the Fatah organization of Dr. Abbas.

The words and actions of the Islamic Jihad organization-and those of Hamas and PLO leader Abbas-seemed to confirm that the attack was an attempt to move the Palestinians away from killing each other by moving them back to killing Israelis, as suggested by Abbas himself in a speech two weeks ago.

The internet web site of Islamic Jihad said the “Eilat operation” was meant to unite Palestinians of all organizations, and it seemed to work.

Voice of Palestine radio reported Tuesday (Jan30) that a truce between Fatah and Hamas had been reached, and V.O.P. said there was relative quiet in the Gaza Strip and West Bank areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.


Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication who teaches at the Rothberg School of Hebrew University. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.