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Israelis Rescue Cab Driver Held by Palestinians (REUTERS) By Gwen Ackerman JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 07/16/03 12:38 PM ET) Source: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=3101618
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli commandos on Wednesday freed unharmed an Israeli taxi driver held for five days by Palestinians in a kidnapping that jolted the relative calm ushered in by a cease-fire crucial to a new peace plan.
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In another sensitive case, a Northern Irish man held at the weekend after being mistaken for a bombmaker from the dissident Real Irish Republican Army (IRA) left Israel for Dublin.
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Israeli officials said Morgan left the country for Ireland of his own free will after being cleared of suspicion he had links with Palestinian militants.
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Friends said the Belfast man was a pro-Palestinian activist with no links to militants who launched an uprising against Israel for independence in September 2000.
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"He underwent -- inter alia -- a polygraph examination and was found to be speaking the truth; therefore, he was released and has left Israel," a Government Press Office statement said.
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The Israeli cab driver was rescued by special forces from an abandoned building near the West Bank city of Ramallah where he was found in a deep pit covered with wooden planks.
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"Israel is proud again not to have tolerated kidnapping and won´t surrender to any extortion because we know there can be no compromise with terror," Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said during a visit to Norway.
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Eliahu Gurel´s release came a day after a Palestinian fatally stabbed an Israeli strolling along the Tel Aviv seaside promenade in the first militant attack inside Israel since militant groups declared a truce on June 29.
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Elite security forces were led to Gurel, 61, by two kidnappers arrested Tuesday. Two more were captured during the rescue operation and another, a woman, was detained in Israel.
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Gurel went missing Friday. His cab was found with its engine running in an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
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"I picked up passengers on the side of the road. I almost never do this but because of the little girl, I decided to take them," Gurel said of his last fare before the abduction.
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"In French Hill in Jerusalem it was a different story. Someone took out a knife and held it to my neck...I was held in a pit over the last two days," Gurel told Israeli army radio.
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KIDNAPPERS´ MOTIVES UNCLEAR
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No group claimed responsibility for Gurel´s kidnapping. But the head of Israel´s central army command, Major-General Moshe Kaplinsky, said it was "definitely a terrorist incident."
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Kaplinsky said Gurel´s kidnappers had tried to bargain his release for that of the 6,000 Palestinians incarcerated by Israel and added that Israel had expected better cooperation from Palestinian security sources in freeing the cab driver.
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Sharon, who Tuesday called on Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to crack down on militants, told reporters it was clear "Israel in this case could rely only on itself."
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Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim said Palestinian security officials did little to help, despite a commitment to enforce order under the peace plan, which calls for reciprocal steps leading to a Palestinian state by 2005.
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"They do not want to exert force against terror organizations," Boim told army radio. Gurel had been held in an area reoccupied by Israel in offensives last year that weakened Palestinian police forces. Rebuilding them will take time.
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Palestinian officials say Abbas has hesitated to confront militants for fear of civil war. He has called on Israel to free all prisoners and so defuse a Palestinian grievance that has strengthened militants opposed to the "road map" peace plan. (© Reuters 2003 07/16/03)
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