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Israel: Documents Link Arafat With Militants

The Israeli army said Tuesday it has found a letter at Yasser Arafat's compound, written by a militant group to Arafat's chief financial officer requesting enough money to build up to nine bombs a week.

The document details costs incurred by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia linked to Arafat's Fatah movement, and was found in the office of Fuad Shobaki, chief financial officer for the Palestinian Authority, said Israeli intelligence officer Col. Miri Eisin.

"I call it a terror invoice, of how much terrorism costs," she told a news conference.

The letter was among the documents seized after Israeli tanks and troops stormed into Arafat's compound last Friday, following a wave of Palestinian suicide bomb attacks. Israel did not provide any evidence whether the requested money was given.

Asked about the documents, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said he had not seen them. But he said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "has asked everyone to help with his public relations campaign and the Israelis are very busy fabricating things."

But Israel said the documents were legitimate and important.

"What we have here for the first time is a document which connects directly those responsible for terrorist activity and their requesting the money from an official person within the Palestinian Authority, and not just any person, but Shobaki," said Eisin.

At Israel's demand, the Palestinians arrested Shobaki earlier this year for his alleged involvement in a huge shipment of arms that Israel seized in the Red Sea. Israel says Shobaki helped organize the shipment from Iran to the Gaza Strip, and that he is currently in Arafat's besieged compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

In the document dated Sept. 17, 2001, a copy of which was shown to journalists, the Al-Aqsa Brigades state that their largest expense has been electrical components and chemical supplies for the production of charges and bombs, and that each explosive costs at least $150.

"We need about five to nine bombs a week for our cells in various areas" the document says.

The letter also asks for $17,000 to be immediately transferred to purchase ammunition for automatic rifles. "We require this ammunition on a daily basis," it said.

It also lists the costs of memorial services for Al-Aqsa members who are killed, as well as the printing of posters, invitations and tents for mourners.

The Al-Aqsa Brigades were formed several months after violence erupted in September 2000 and have been involved in shootings and other attacks on Israelis. As violence spiraled since January, the militia turned for the first time to suicide bombings. Last month, the United States included the group on its list of terror organizations.