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News Briefs

Islamic Group Claims Responsibility for Israeli Deaths

Los Angeles Times

Hamas, a militant Islamic organization opposed to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, claimed responsibility Saturday for the stabbing deaths of two Israeli construction workers and vowed to commit two more killings before the end of the year.

The attacks are likely to further exacerbate tensions between the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat's fledgling Palestinian Authority, which is still trying to organize its bureaucracy in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho.

Rabin is due to go before his Cabinet Sunday with an Israeli-PLO agreement - initialed last week in Cairo - that would extend the PLO's authority in areas throughout the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Cabinet members are likely to pressure Rabin to slow down the negotiating process with the PLO unless it agrees to crack down on Hamas.

The Palestinian Authority met in Gaza on Saturday and endorsed the Cairo agreement, according to Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath. He told reporters that he and Danny Rothschild, Israel's chief negotiator, will sign the agreement Monday at the Erez checkpoint that separates pre-1967 Israel from the Gaza Strip.

But the double slayings in Ramle may once again put Arafat and the Palestinian police force on the spot. Police sources said they believe the attack was carried out by Palestinian workers from Gaza. The site where the killings took place was known to employ Palestinians from Gaza who did not have valid work permits, Police Chief Assaf Hefetz told Israel Television.

The bodies of Gil Rezach, 22, and Shlomo Kapach, 24, were discovered Friday afternoon at a construction site in Ramle, a suburb of Tel Aviv. If Hamas did carry out the attack, it would be the first time Palestinian extremists have killed Israelis inside the country's pre-1967 borders since the Gaza Strip and Jericho came under Palestinian control in mid-May.

China Detains Dissident as U.S. Official Arrives for Talks

The Washington Post

Chinese police detained prominent dissident Wang Dan shortly before the arrival in Beijing Saturday night of Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown, the first U.S. cabinet member to visit China since President Clinton broke the link between its human rights record and its preferred trading status.

A relative of Wang said that five or six police officers served a summons on Wang today and took the former student leader from his home, the Reuter news agency reported. Earlier in the week, Wang, who had been a leader of the democracy demonstrations that were crushed by the Chinese army in 1989, issued a statement complaining about three months of police harassment. The move overshadowed the arrival of Brown, who came to Beijing with two dozen top American corporate executives on a mission to improve the prospects of U.S. firms competing for business in China.

When Clinton severed the linkage between China's rights progress and its trading privileges three months ago, he said he was convinced the Chinese would act to improve human rights if the issue were separated from the threat of trade sanctions.

However, human rights activists have said that since then, Beijing has ceased all progress on human rights issues, including the release of political prisoners, an accounting of political prisoners, the treatment of prisoners and the opening of prisons to inspections by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The activists point in particular to the closed trial in Beijing of more than a dozen people who were active in the 1989 democracy movement and the continued detention of Wei Jinsheng, a leading dissident who was arrested on the eve of a visit to China by Secretary of State Warren Christopher last March. More than a dozen other dissidents were also detained by authorities before and during Christopher's visit.