Israel to probe assassination attempt in Jordan
Unrepentant Netanyahu: No compromise on terror
October 6, 1997
Web posted at: 6:03 p.m. EDT (2203 GMT)
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israeli government has appointed a special commission to investigate an alleged assassination
attempt against a Hamas leader by Israeli agents in Jordan
But at a news conference announcing the commission Monday
evening, an unrepentant Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu --
who has come under heated criticism both at home and abroad
as details of the failed operation have emerged -- defended
the use of secret operations against suspected terrorists.
"As prime minister I have the duty, the supreme duty, to
fight in every possible way against this dreadful terror.
This is a battle without compromise. This is not a battle of
words. It's a battle of deeds," Netanyahu said.
While acknowledging there had been an incident in Jordan that
had "harmed" relations with that country, Netanyahu would not
discuss the specifics of any Israeli operation. He did not
confirm reports in the Israeli media, and from Jordanian
officials, that an assassination attempt had been made in
Amman on Khaled Mashaal, a Hamas political leader.
But he did defend, in broad terms, the use of covert
operations to combat terrorism, saying it "is justified and
we stand behind it."
"Every now and then, as in every war, there are failures, and
there are risks. As prime minister, I assume the total
responsibility for the fight against terror, both when there
are successes and when there are (failures)."
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He bristled when asked by a journalist whether he would
resign if the special commission found him at fault for the
failed operation in Jordan.
"I have to look into the eyes of pictures of those children,
those citizens who have died in those terror attacks. I have
to do some soul searching every day," he said. "I have no
intention of stopping the activities of this government
Captured Mossad agents return to Israel
Two agents from the Mossad, Israel's top secret spy agency,
reportedly tried to kill Mashaal by injecting him with poison.
The agents were captured by Jordanian officials; Mashaal
The assassination attempt angered not only Jordan but also
Canada, because the Mossad agents were reportedly carrying
forged Canadian passports.
Jordan announced Monday that it had released the two
suspected Mossad agents and allowed them to return to Israel.
In return, Israel released at least 19 Palestinians and
Jordanians held in Israeli jails.
Israeli Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been
coordinating the deal with Jordan, announced that 40 to 50
more Arab prisoners would be released in about two weeks. But
he stressed that those released would not be "terrorists with
blood on their hands."
Yassin returns to Gaza
The most high-profile release in the wake of the Jordanian
incident has been Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of
Hamas, who was freed last week and taken to Jordan. Monday,
he made a triumphant return to Palestinian-controlled Gaza.
But Netanyahu downplayed the link between the two events,
saying Israeli authorities were already considering releasing
Yassin because he was in ill health. He said the Israeli
government was concerned about what might happen if he died
in an Israeli jail.
The prime minister strongly denied that any direct deal had
been made with Hamas.
"We have not negotiated with Hamas. We do not negotiate with
Hamas," Netanyahu said.
A Jordanian military helicopter carrying Yassin, a
61-year-old quadriplegic, touched down in Gaza Monday
afternoon. He was then driven to a sports stadium to address
several thousand followers.
"There must be no divisions among the Palestinian people,"
Yassin whispered to an aide, who repeated the words for the
crowd. Supporters whistled and chanted "Allahu Akbar," or
"God is great."
In Ottawa, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy said
while Israeli officials have expressed regret about the use
of Canadian passports, he has yet to receive assurances that
Mossad will stop using Canadian documents in the future.
Canada recalled its ambassador from Israel in protest.
Reuters contributed to this report.