Switzerland made secret deal with PLO in the 1970s, new book alleges

Yasser ArafatSwitzerland secretly agreed in the 1970s to support calls for Palestinian statehood, in return for not being targeted by Palestinian militants, according to a new book. Written by Marcel Gyr, a journalist with the Zurich-based Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the book alleges that the Swiss government took the unprecedented step of contacting Palestinian militants in 1970. According to Gyr, the move followed a series of attacks against Israeli targets in Switzerland by several Palestinian armed groups. In February 1969, Palestinian militants fired on an El Al airliner at Zurich’s Kloten Airport, killing the pilot. A year later, a Swissair Flight 330 from Zurich to Hong Kong with a stopover In Tel Aviv, Israel, exploded in mid-air, killing nearly 50 passengers and crew. The Syrian-backed Palestinian group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) later claimed responsibility for the attack. In September 1970 another Swissair flight, headed to the United States, was hijacked and diverted to Jordan, where its passengers were held hostage.

It was during the latter incident, claims Gyr, that Switzerland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierre Graber, clandestinely contacted the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the umbrella group that coordinated the activities of a multitude of Palestinian armed groups. Gyr alleges that Graber reached out to the PLO without informing his colleagues in the cabinet, and that he used a junior Swiss parliamentarian as an envoy and intermediary. Eventually, the PLO, which at the time was led by Yasser Arafat, agreed to release the hostages. He also offered to stop launching armed attacks, hijackings, and other violent operations on Swiss soil. In return, claims Gyr, Switzerland would agree to quietly abandon the investigation into the bombing of Swissair Flight 330, and to push for diplomatic recognition of the PLO as the legal representative of the Palestinian people.

Gyr claims that both sides kept their side of the bargain. The Swiss government gradually abandoned the investigation into the bombing of Swissair Flight 330. The country also led European efforts to offer diplomatic status to the PLO. Meanwhile, although the war between the PLO and Israel continued throughout Europe, no Palestinian attacks ever took place again on Swiss soil. Responding to Gyr’s book, Switzerland’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Didier Burkhalter, said he had no idea about the secret agreement and that he was “very surprised indeed” to know about it. Some Swiss political figures have asked for the establishment of a parliamentary inquiry to investigate Gyr’s allegations. It is unclear whether such a committee would have access to hundreds of thousands of pages about the Palestinian attacks in Switzerland, which today remain classified.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 January 2016 | Permalink

Israel silent after assassination of key Hezbollah figure in Damascus

Samir Kuntar Israel has refused comment following the death of a senior official of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, who was killed on Saturday in a missile strike in Syria. Samir Kuntar (also spelled Qantar) was a Druze who joined the Syrian-backed, Lebanese-based, Palestine Liberation Front (later Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command) at a young age. In 1979, Kuntar was jailed for an attack on an apartment block in Israel’s northern coastal town of Nahariya, which resulted in the death of four Israeli civilians and two of the attackers. However, he was freed after nearly three decades in prison in exchange for the bodies of two Israel Defense Force soldiers, who had been captured and executed by Hezbollah in 2006.

Since his high-profile release, Kuntar was believed to have risen in the ranks of Hezbollah, and to have become a major operational figure in the Lebanese militant group. In September of this year, the United States Department of State officially designated Kuntar a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. This designation, under US Executive Order 13224, denoted that Kuntar posed a significant and immediate terrorist threat to American interests. A statement issued by the US State Department at the time described Kuntar as one of Hezbollah’s “most visible and popular spokesmen”, and said he also had an operational role in the organization.

Kuntar was reportedly killed alongside eight other people when a barrage of missiles hit a residential building in the Damascus suburb of Jaramana. A statement by Hezbollah-controlled television station Al-Manar said four long-range missiles were fired by two “Israeli warplanes” that appeared to target the residential building. Based on footage aired by Al-Manar, the multi-story building appears completely destroyed. Moreover, at least one other Hezbollah senior commander, Farhan al-Shaalan, is said to have died in the strike.

Although Hezbollah officially accused “the Zionist entity” for the missile strikes, Israel has refused comment on Kuntar’s killing. When asked for a response by reporters on Sunday morning, Israeli Minister for Construction and Housing Yoav Gallant said he was happy that Kuntar was dead, but stopped short of confirming that Israel was behind the killing.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 December 2015 | Permalink

Libyan’s release prevented “explosive” appeal hearing, says ex-CIA agent

Robert Baer

Robert Baer

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As intelNews anticipated, Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was released last week by British authorities. Al-Megrahi, who allegedly has terminal cancer, was convicted in 2001 for his role in the Lockerbie air disaster, but has now been allowed to return to Libya in order to die in his homeland. But former CIA agent Robert Baer has repeated charges that the Libyan prisoner was released so at to prevent his legal team from filing an appeal, which Baer believes would have proven beyond doubt that Iran, not Libya, was behind the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103. As The London Times has reported before, al-Megrahi’s legal team is in possession of several US government documents on the case, including a report by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which says that the attack was “conceived, authorized and financed” by Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur (alternative spelling: Ali-Akbar Mohtashamipur), Iran’s Minister of Interior during the early years of the Islamic Revolution. Read more of this post

Document reveals US spies saw Iran behind Lockerbie bombing

Al-Megrahi

Al-Megrahi

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A US intelligence report available to the lawyers of a Libyan former intelligence agent convicted for his role in the Lockerbie air disaster blames Iran, not Libya, for the attack. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, who intelNews hears will be released from jail on compassionate grounds, had instructed his legal team to present the document in court if his release appeal failed. Al-Megrahi is one of two Libyans jailed for their alleged role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people. But the report, produced by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), says that the attack was “conceived, authorized and financed” by Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur (alternative spelling: Ali-Akbar Mohtashamipur), who served as the Iran’s Minister of Interior during the first years of the Islamic Revolution. Read more of this post