- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

LONDON Israel said yesterday that it would end its siege of Yasser Arafat's compound only when it had in custody the Palestinian intelligence chief, whom it accuses of financing and organizing terror attacks.
Israeli military sources told The Washington Times that they have seized documents they say show that Col. Tawfiq Tirawi was abetting terrorist attacks while he was supposed to be working with Israeli and U.S. officials to halt them.
Col. Tirawi, commander of the Palestinian General Security Service, was defiant in an interview yesterday.
"In my entire life I have never surrendered. I don't know what surrender is," he said by cell phone from the rubble-filled compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he has been holed up for a month since receiving a tip that the Israelis wanted to arrest him.
"I have the right and obligation to defend myself. I intend on fighting. Both I and Yasser Arafat will fight until the last minute," he said.
Col. Tirawi has been joined inside Mr. Arafat's headquarters by about 250 men since Israeli troops surrounded the building last week.
Ahmed Tibi, a friend of the colonel and one of 12 Arabs in the 100-member Israeli parliament, rejected the accusations against Col. Tirawi.
"Even during his month inside [Mr. Arafats headquarters] Tirawi has saved many Israeli lives by ordering the arrest of three teams of suicide bombers," Mr. Tibi said in a telephone interview.
Israel, demanding the surrender of about 25 suspected terrorists who it says are taking shelter in the compound, has defied calls by the United States and a U.N. Security Council resolution to withdraw.
"The compound continues to be the nerve center of Palestinian terrorism," Arieh Mekel, an official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Saturday. "The people who are there continue to disseminate orders and to send terrorists to attack Israeli citizens."
Israeli officials said in interviews that they believe Mr. Tirawi has been negotiating security issues with the United States and Israel while simultaneously funding militants, supporting or ordering shootings in which six Israelis have died, and covering up for suicide bombers and their accomplices.
A captured General Security document bearing Mr. Tirawi's name, which was made available to The Washington Times, informs Mr. Arafat that certain individuals need money for concealment after having carried out "quality actions," considered a euphemism for terror attacks.
According to the Israeli security sources, Col. Tirawi's name was linked to terror operations by Fatah gunmen arrested during a military incursion in April.
His organization is primarily responsible for gathering intelligence on bombing and shooting attacks, but the Israelis say his men usually avoid making arrests.
One senior Israeli army official acknowledged that Col. Tirawi may have been responsible for the arrest of the men who assassinated Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. But, he said, it was "only the minimum he could do, and in no way proves he was not up to no good in other activities."
In one of the documents seized by Israel and leaked to reporters, Col. Tirawi proposes spiriting the brother of Wafa Idriss across the Jordan River. Idriss was the first Palestinian female suicide bomber and is considered a hero by many in the community.
Though trapped with Mr. Arafat, Col. Tirawi still controls his security and intelligence operatives by cell phone and fax, Mr. Tibi said.
He also confirmed that Israel and the United States had been holding secret security talks with Col. Tirawi. He noted a recent meeting in Jerusalem involving Avi Dichter, the head of Israel's Mossad intelligence service, as well as the CIA's Israel chief.
Col. Tirawi has refused to condemn or restrain attacks on Israelis living in West Bank settlements, contending in an interview published yesterday in the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv that the settlers are fair targets.
Palestinian human rights activists, meanwhile, hold Col. Tirawi responsible for the killings of most of the about 80 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.
Mr. Tibi said Col. Tirawi "admits he has acted against collaborators, but it is for sure not the business of Israel."
"He says these Palestinians betrayed their country."
Col. Tirawi recently admitted to a London-based Saudi-owned newspaper that his men had killed seven Palestinians for the "crime" of selling West Bank real estate to Jews in 1996.


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