Report urges Palestinians fight terror

WASHINGTON — The Palestinian Authority cooperated with Israel to combat terrorism last year, but still needs to make greater efforts in this area, according to a recent State Department report.

In its annual report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism," the State Department also said that despite Syria's stated commitment to the peace process, Damascus has not acted to stop anti-Israeli attacks by Islamic fundamentalists Hezbollah and other terror groups.

Some 304 acts of international terrorism occurred last year, eight more than in 1996, the State Department said. But the figure for 1997 was still one of the lowest annual totals recorded since 1971, when the State Department began keeping track of such acts.

The attacks killed 221 people, compared with 312 in 1996 and 177 in 1995.

The number of wounded also was down as compared with last year — 693 as opposed to 2,912.

The report said the Middle East witnessed some of the world's most horrific acts of terrorism in 1997, including three suicide bombings carried out against Israelis by Hamas that killed 24 and wounded more than 420.

The region also had the largest number of terrorist victims — 105 dead and 375 wounded. The deadliest attack of the year occurred at a temple in Luxor, Egypt, where Islamic extremists slaughtered 62.

As Israel continued to face terrorist attacks by Palestinian groups opposed to the peace process, the Palestinian Authority pre-empted several anti-Israeli attacks, including several planned suicide bombings, the report said.

"At the same time, more effort is needed by the PA to enhance its bilateral cooperation with Israel and its unilateral fight against terrorism," the report said.

Iran remained the world's leading "state sponsor of terrorism," carrying out at least 13 assassinations, according to the report.

The State Department designated the same seven countries as last year — Iran, Cuba, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria — as state sponsors of terrorism subject to U.S. sanctions.

It said there was no evidence directly linking Cuba, Iraq, North Korea or Syria to terrorist acts last year, but that those countries continue to harbor terrorists.

The report said Syria continues to provide safe haven and support for several terrorist groups, while it "assists the resupply of Hezbollah and Palestinian rejectionist groups operating in Lebanon."