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Jerusalem patriarch says Israel can defuse Holy Land violence

Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem said Israel holds the key to defusing Palestinian violence, and he warned that extremist resistance will continue to erupt as long as Israeli occupation continues.

Israel's current campaign against Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has only added to the problem, fueling Palestinian extremist movements, Patriarch Sabbah said in an interview last week with Catholic News Service.

Last Thursday, Israel severed all contact with Arafat, holding him "directly responsible" for Palestinian suicide bombings, and launched air strikes on Palestinian National Authority offices.

Arafat's spokesman called the moves "an official declaration of war."

Patriarch Sabbah, who participated in a daylong Vatican meeting on Thursday to discuss the crisis in the Holy Land, told CNS the Israelis were using Arafat as a scapegoat for a situation that is of their own making.