Israel has prevented a number of senior Fatah representatives from Lebanon from participating in the movement's general conference in Bethlehem starting on Tuesday.

The most senior of those refused entry is Col. Munir Hussein al-Maqdah, a Fatah activist considered close to Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and to organizations thought connected to Al-Qaida in Lebanon.

Two other Fatah activists denied entry were involved in the murder of the Israeli athletes in Munich during the 1972 Olympic games. However, Khaled Abu Asba, one of the terrorists who took part in the Coastal Road terror attack in March 1978 has already arrived in Bethlehem for the general summit.

An Israeli security official said the Palestinian Authority had given Israel a long list of Fatah activists from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon for approval to attend the conference.

Most of those on the list have not visited the West Bank in decades.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the request, contingent on a detailed examination of the names by the Shin Bet security service. The defense establishment source said that after an examination, the vast majority were approved and only a few names were rejected for security reasons.

Maqdah, who lives in the Ein El-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon, is described as a central terrorist figure in Lebanon by Israeli security officials. He is involved in financing and directing attacks in the West Bank and Gaza since the start of the Second Intifada. He is in regular telephone contact with the commanders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the West Bank and Gaza and had directed them to commit terrorist acts, and has provided them with tens of thousands of dollars for their activities.

Abu Asba was arrested after the 1978 attack, in which 35 were killed and 71 injured, and sentenced to 12 life sentences, but was released after seven years as part of the Jibril prisoner exchange agreement.