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Killing of Palestinian Lawyer May Be Warning to Moderates

December 3, 1985

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ The slaying of a prominent Palestinian attorney who advocated coexistence with Israel may be a warning to other moderates in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the mayor of Bethlehem said Tuesday.

Police said Aziz Shehadeh, 73, was slashed to death with a knife outside his home Monday night in the West Bank town of Ramallah, about 10 miles northwest of Jerusalem.

Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem, one of the best-known Palestinian moderates in the West Bank, told The Associated Press: ″The killing will make the (moderate) activists less active and more careful. To lose him at this time will have great repercussions for efforts to start peace talks.″

Freij, who is noted for his pro-Jordanian views, said he was taking extra precautions because of Shehadeh’s murder, but he would not elaborate.

″To kill such a man in front of his home is very frightening,″ Freij said by telephone from his office eight miles southwest of Jerusalem.

In 1969, Shehadeh became one of the first Palestinians to call publicly for a Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel. The Palestine Liberation Organization condemned him at the time for his willingness to negotiate.

The PLO condemned the killing in a statement issued by its office in Amman, the Jordanian capital.

In Paris, an anonymous telephone caller claimed responsibility for the slaying in the name of a Palestinian extremist group led by Abu Nidal, a dissident guerrilla leader on whom Yasser Arafat’s PLO leadership has passed a death sentence.

The caller told Agence France-Presse, the French news agency, that ″the same fate is in store for all agents and traitors.″

Israel radio quoted police as saying the motive might have been criminal rather than political, possibly connected with Shehadeh’s law practice or business dealings.

Police said two men were involved, one holding the attorney while the other slit his throat. A neighbor found the body in a pool of blood in Shehadeh’s driveway.

The murder comes at time of intense diplomatic activity aimed at opening peace negotiations between Israel and Jordan, in which one of the major snags has been the nature of Palestinian representation. Prime Minister Shimon Peres of Israel rejects the PLO but has agreed to a role for moderate West Bank Palestinians.

A Peres aide said Tuesday that Shehadeh’s death ″certainly won’t help″ the process. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Arabic-language press in east Jerusalem noted that Shehadeh recently had defended Palestinians who said their West Bank lands were sold to Israelis fraudulently. Some prominent Palestinians suggested the murder might be linked to that.

″He played a role in discovering the middlemen responsible. We guess that this may be the reason″ he was killed, Hebron’s acting mayor, Mustafa Natsheh, said in a telephone interview.

In 1974, Shehadeh represented Hilarion Capudji, a Greek Catholic archbishop in Jerusalem who was convicted of smuggling arms for the PLO.

The attorney was in a group of Palestinians who met with Cyrus R. Vance, then secretary of state, in 1977 before the visit to Jerusalem by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat that led to the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

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