- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 5, 2001

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Marwan Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian leader, narrowly escaped with his life yesterday after two Israeli missiles landed near his car in what Palestinians called an assassination attempt.
Later, a senior Palestinian official said Yasser Arafat sent urgent letters to President Bush and leaders in Russia, China and the European Union calling for intervention in the conflict with the Israelis.
Mr. Arafat told Mr. Bush the conflict had become extremely dangerous and the situation demanded urgent American intervention, the official said.
"From here in the Holy Land we urge you to take up your responsibility regarding the peace process which your father started and to revive the hope of keeping this process alive, " he quoted the letter as saying.
Mr. Barghouti, an outspoken leader of Mr. Arafat's Fatah movement, was shaken but unhurt in the attack in the West Bank. A Palestinian security official traveling in a second car was injured.
"This was a clear assassination attempt, " said Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the attack in the town of Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem.
Israeli security sources said the target was not Mr. Barghouti but the wounded official. They accused him of killing several Israelis over the past few months, including Binyamin Zeev Kahane, son of the assassinated anti-Arab leader Rabbi Meir Kahane.
Military sources said they "did not in any way try to kill Marwan Barghouti," who has received extensive media coverage with his calls for Palestinian resistance against Israel.
The missiles were fired from Psagot, a nearby Jewish settlement that overlooks Ramallah, Palestinian security officials at the scene said.
Hospital officials identified the injured security official as Mohammed Abu Halaweh, a member of Mr. Arafat's elite presidential guard, Force 17. Doctors said he suffered light burns.
Israeli security sources identified him as Mohammed Diria but said he was also known as Abu Halaweh. They said he was directly responsible for the killing of at least eight Israelis, including Binyamin Kahane and his wife, Talia, who were ambushed on a West Bank road on Dec 31.
The Israelis have carried out repeated attacks against suspected Palestinian militants during the 10 months of fighting. Israel says it targets Palestinians who have carried out or planned attacks against Israel, as well as those who are preparing attacks.
The raids have provoked outrage among the Palestinians and have been condemned by the United States, the European Union and other nations. If Israel were indeed targeting Mr. Barghouti, he would be the most prominent Palestinian leader to come under attack.

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