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Captured Israeli pilot criticizes Israeli attack

By
JULIE FLINT

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- The only Israeli pilot captured in the 24-day invasion of Lebanon, smiling and relaxed beside his Palestinian guard, criticized his nation's 'war against civilian people.'

Aharon Achiaz, saying the fighting would not create peace, expressed more concern Monday about an apparent lack of Israeli efforts to free him that about any danger in captivity.

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'From what I hear on the radio,' the reservist said, 'my only problem is my family believe I am dead. Maybe they don't want to exchange prisoners. I am in a bad situation.'

Achiaz, 33, said he had heard of no Israeli interest in his release since Palestinian gunners shot down his Skyhawk plane near Beaufort Castle in south Lebanon June 6.

'I have not been tortured,' he said. 'I am living together with my guard, Moukhtar, in the same apartment. He is a friend of mine -- not only for now, until the end of my life. Really. We are not playing a game.

'But I can't deny I have pressure here,' he said, smiling, sheepishly, and pressing his stomach.

Achiaz spoke in the center of Palestinian Beirut, accompanied by Moukhtar, a Palestine Liberation Organization official and, in a corner of the room, an armed guerrilla in combat fatigues.

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He appeared at ease, joking with the Palestinians and even criticizing the PLO.

'The PLO can fight bravely,' he said, 'but I don't believe it can stop Israel. Israel is so strong, it's unbelievable.

'You agree?' he asked the PLO official.

'I don't agree,' the official said, 'but it's your interview.'

Achiaz laughed. 'No one told me what to say,' he said.

A wealthy businessman in private life, Achiaz said he opposed Israeli troops entering Beirut and said the invasion already was 'out of proportion,' referring several times to television coverage of civilian casualties.

'I am not against war,' he said. 'But I am against such a war against civilian people. Tell them. It is not good for Israel.'

He said he believed Israel 'was waiting for a chance' to invade Lebanon 'to finish the PLO.'

'They can kill some people,' Achiaz said, 'but in this way there is no solution to the problem.

'Israel is a democratic country. It is. I think the PLO has to find a way to the heart of Israel. Let's say five years without terror to stop the fear in Israel.

'In the few last years they (the Palestinians) tried to stop it, but there was not a complete stop. I believe the Palestinians will achieve more in the political way.'

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