Syrian Crackdown on Terror

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BEIRUT: The weekend arrests in Lebanon of seven suspected members of the Japanese Red Army, which was active mostly in the 1970s, could be a signal that Syria is finally getting serious about peace with Israel. In raids staged throughout the weekend, Lebanese agents rounded up seven men thought to be members of the terrorist group that first fought American involvement in Vietnam, then moved on to champion Palestinian causes. The group, responsible for an attack on Israel's Lod airport in 1972 that killed 24 people, has hardly been visible since the mid 1980s. With many of its members now in jail or dead, the group is little more than a memory of a time when terrorist hijackings were common. Since little happens in Syrian-controlled Lebanon without the approval of Damascus, chances are the arrests were carried out with Syria's consent -- perhaps as a goodwill token from President Hafez Assad. Among the five Japanese and two Lebanese suspects arrested is Kozo Okamoto, who was sentenced to life in prison after the Lod bombing, but later released in a prisoner exchange between Israelis and Palestinians.