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Israel Questions Member of Irish Guerrilla Group - 2003-07-14

Israeli security officials are questioning a suspected member of an Irish guerrilla group for possible links to Palestinian militants. At the same time, two major Palestinian militant groups warn their self-imposed freeze on attacks against Israel could end. The latest news comes as Israel's Prime Minister holds talks in London about Middle East peace prospects.

Israeli security sources say they arrested a foreigner, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, who they believe is a member of the Real Irish Republican Army, a group that rejects any peace deal for Northern Ireland.

Officials say the man entered Israel on a tourist visa and then slipped into the West Bank. They believe he may have been sent to train Palestinian militants in making bombs and explosives.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon holds talks in London with his British counterpart Tony Blair. He wants to press Mr. Blair and other European leaders to cut any links with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, whom Israel accuses of supporting terrorism and sabotaging peace efforts.

But in Ramallah Sunday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and visiting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov appealed to Israel to allow Mr. Arafat freedom of movement.

Mr. Arafat has been under virtual house arrest in his compound in Ramallah for the last year and a half. Israeli troops have demolished most of the buildings in the compound. Israel has said that Mr. Arafat is free to leave, but it will not guarantee that he would be allowed to return.

In the past few days Palestinian security forces have begun confiscating illegal weapons in Gaza and have arrested several people for having unlicensed guns.

Two major Palestinian militant groups - Islamic Jihad and Hamas have warned their unilateral cease-fire for attacks against Israel could unravel if the Palestinian Authority insists on disarming their fighters.