Bereaved Families Blocked At U.S. Consulate With PM-Israel-Hostages
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Police blocked angry relatives of Israeli victims of terrorism from bursting into the U.S. consulate today during a protest against reported plans by Israel to trade 400 Arab prisoners for hostages in Lebanon.
The 10 demonstrators shouted ″Death to terrorists 3/8″ and ″America, don’t pressure Israel to free terrorists 3/8″ during a 20-minute protest outside the consulate building in Jerusalem. They held up framed pictures of slain kin.
The protesters marched to the consulate from the Supreme Court after barging into the chambers of the court president and shouting against ″freeing the murderers of their children,″ a witness said.
The demonstrators were from six families who filed for a Supreme Court injunction ordering the government not to free convicted terrorists in exchange for Israeli or American captives, said a spokesman for the families, Meir Indor.
Indor said the families were acting only on news reports of a possible exchange.
A Foreign Ministry official refused to confirm or deny a report in the Davar daily that Israel and the United States were negotiating to free all Israeli, American and other captives in Lebanon held by pro-Iranian and pro- Syrian guerrillas.
As part of a swap Israel would free 400 Arab prisoners, the newspaper said.
Rina Azran, whose husband Chaim was knifed to death last year in the occupied Gaza Strip, told a reporter outside the consulate: ″This is the land of Israel, how can it be that terrorists will be set free and we won’t feel safe?″
Earlier Mrs. Azran fainted at the courthouse, said her sister, Shoshana Perinta.
The consulate’s senior political officer, Paul Mailhot, met the relatives outside the building, guarded by mounted police and dozens of Israeli police.
Indor showed him a photograph of a teen-age girl, Esther Adi, killed in a bus bombing in Jerusalem in 1983 and said: ″She was killed by PLO people. You want us to free them.″
Mailhot did not respond, but told reporters, ″We understand what they say and we will pass the information to Washington.″
Both Israeli and American officils have denied any U.S. request or pressure for Israel to free Arab prisoners in response to demands from Lebanese kidnappers.
The ministry official, who insisted on not being further identified, said there had been ″routine contacts″ with Washington regarding the hostage issue, ″but they did not include specifics. It’s an exchange of information.″
Two mothers, Galia Tammam and Varda Shaltiel, whose soldier sons were killed by Palestinian terrorists while hitchchiking, shouted at Mailhot as he walked away and tried to push their way into the building.
Policemen pushed them away and the protesters dispersed.