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Israelis Halt Siege on Arafat's HQ

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Israelis halt siege on Arafat’s headquarters

4 Palestinian demonstrators,

teen die in Gaza, West Bank

MSNBC STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sept. 22 — After days of demolishing Yasser Arafat’s headquarters, bulldozers began leaving the compound Sunday and Israeli Radio said that the troops will stop destroying what little remains, NBC News reported. Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians defied curfews and took to the streets of the West Bank and Gaza to protest Arafat’s isolation. Five people — four demonstrators and a teenager — were killed by Israeli fire, witnesses said. The White House criticized Israel’s actions, calling them “not helpful.”

IN ARAFAT’S battered compound, Israel threatened several times over loudspeakers to blow up Arafat’s office building — the only one left standing — unless wanted men inside surrendered, witnesses said.

Israel initially called for the surrender of 19 Palestinian officials, including members of the intelligence service and the Force 17 bodyguard unit.

On Saturday, a senior army officer taking reporters on a tour of Arafat’s compound said Israel wanted 50 men to give themselves up. Army officials said the figure increased because Israel initially did not have a complete picture of who is inside.

Israel has said it does not intend to harm Arafat, and the army later said it had no plans to blow up the building.

Israel’s deputy defense minister, Weizman Shiri, said Arafat was free to leave the country but would not be allowed to return.

“We’ll give him a one-way ticket in a dignified way,” Shiri told Army Radio on Sunday. Some Cabinet ministers called for Arafat’s expulsion.

Shiri did not say which country could be a likely destination. “If he decides he wants to get out, we’ll find him a good place,” he said.

ARAFAT REMAINS DEFIANT

Despite the siege of his headquarters, Arafat remained defiant. In a statement published by the Palestinian news agency Wafa late Saturday, the Palestinian leader again called on militants to halt attacks inside Israel.

He did not directly address the surrender of the wanted men, though his aides have said they would not be turned over. “We are ready for peace, not for capitulation, and we will not give up Jerusalem or a grain of our soil which we are guaranteed to us by international law,” he said in the statement, his first comment since the Israeli raid began.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called on President Bush to intervene immediately to stop the Israeli operation, the Middle East News Agency reported.

The United States, concerned that a new flareup in the Middle East could complicate its campaign against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, was cautious in its words.

“Israeli actions in and around the Moqata’a are not helpful in reducing terrorist violence or promoting Palestinian reforms,” White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo said Sunday, referring to Arafat’s complex.

ISRAEL GIRDS FOR LONG STANDOFF

Sept. 21 — Yasser Arafat, his supporters and 200 others refuse to budge. NBC’s Patricia Sabga reports.

Israel, preparing for a long standoff, planted an Israeli flag on top of Arafat’s building. Officials said troops would not withdraw from the compound before the wanted men surrender, and left open the possibility that even then they might not leave.

Senior Arafat adviser Nabil Abu Rdainah told MSNBC’s Gregg Jarrett on Saturday that the situation in the lone building “is very grave, very dangerous and could explode at any minute. If they were to storm it, there would be a real catastrophe, a real massacre.”

Early Sunday, Arafat’s Fatah movement led protest marches in the West Bank and Gaza towns, some defying Israeli military curfews.

In Gaza City, thousands marched in front of the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza City, protesting the Israeli operation. Abu Mohammed, an armed member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militia, linked to Arafat’s Fatah, said, “It is time for all Palestinians to teach the Israelis a lesson and defend Arafat.”

PROTESTERS SHOT DEAD

In Ramallah, just a few miles from Arafat’s compound, troops fired tear gas and bullets to disperse hundreds of men, women and children chanting “long live Arafat, long live Palestine.” Two protesters were killed by army fire, hospital officials said.

NBC News reporters in Ramallah said one spontaneous demonstration was small, with about 100 men chanting “Abu Amar!” — Arafat’s nom de guerre — and raising their fists.

Two more people were killed in Tulkarem and the Balata refugee camp next to Nablus. In Tulkarem, gunmen walking in a crowd of about 1,200 people traded fire with Israeli troops, witnesses said. In the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, about 5,000 people joined the protests, some firing submachine guns into the air and holding up Arafat pictures.

Israeli military officials, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said soldiers opened fire on armed Palestinians after warning shots were ignored.

Symbols of power in ruins

In Nablus, a 13-year-old Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers while violating the curfew in the city, hospital officials said. The Israeli military had no comment.

MARCHERS DEMAND PRISONERS’ RELEASE

‘It is strengthening Arafat. It is giving [him] public sympathy and public credibility.’

— GHASSAN AL-KHATIB

In the West Bank town of Jericho, about 400 protesters marched to a local prison, demanding the release of six men held under U.S. and British supervision as part of a deal that prompted Israel to lift its siege of Arafat’s compound in May. The foreign monitors threatened to leave, saying they felt endangered by the mob, according to security officials in Jericho.

The Israeli siege was expected to revive the Palestinian leader’s sagging popularity, and put on hold recent attempts led by Arafat loyalists to force him to share power.

“It is strengthening Arafat. It is giving [him] public sympathy and public credibility,” said Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan al-Khatib.

Three days into Israel’s assault on Arafat’s once sprawling headquarters — launched in reprisal for a Tel Aviv bus bombing that killed six — the main office building was surrounded by barbed wire, piles of debris and heaps of smashed cars.

Arafat and dozens of aides and security guards were confined to four rooms on the second floor of one wing after a tank shell destroyed the stairs to the third floor. Several more shells hit the building, and one dusted Arafat with debris, aides said.

“The water pipes and telephone lines have been cut off by Israeli troops,” said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. “All our contacts with the Israelis, Europeans and Americans have failed to produce any tangible results.”

The army confirmed water supplies had been cut to Arafat, but said troops had done so by accident.

EUROPEANS, ARABS PROTEST ACTION

Strong statements against the Israeli operation came from Europe and the Arab world.

France demanded that Israel halt the operation. The European Union’s foreign policy coordinator, Javier Solana, said the raid would not help end terrorism, and would instead undermine efforts to reform the Palestinian Authority and work out a truce.

In a statement published Saturday by the Palestinian news agency Wafa, Arafat again called on militants to halt attacks inside Israel.

He did not directly address the surrender of the wanted men, though his aides have said they would not be turned over.

The U.N. Security Council was to meet Monday to discuss the siege.

ARAFAT IN TIGHT GRIP

Israel’s confinement of Arafat is its tightest since its forces surrounded the former guerrilla leader in 1982 during the Lebanon war. It has raised fears of a new surge of violence that could complicate Washington’s plans for possible war on Iraq.

Arafat, 73, is under pressure from the Palestinian Parliament to enact security and anti-corruption reforms that the United States says are needed for any return to talks on statehood. He is widely expected to be re-elected Palestinian leader in an election set for Jan. 20.

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ARAFAT IN TIGHT GRIP

Israel’s confinement of Arafat is its tightest since its forces surrounded the former guerrilla leader in 1982 during the Lebanon war. It has raised fears of a new surge of violence that could complicate Washington’s plans for possible war on Iraq.

Arafat, 73, is under pressure from the Palestinian Parliament to enact security and anti-corruption reforms that the United States says are needed for any return to talks on statehood. He is widely expected to be re-elected Palestinian leader in an election set for Jan. 20.

If these people re-elect Arafat, I see a slim chance of a Palestine state any time soon.

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Originally posted by dnice35

ARAFAT IN TIGHT GRIP

Israel’s confinement of Arafat is its tightest since its forces surrounded the former guerrilla leader in 1982 during the Lebanon war. It has raised fears of a new surge of violence that could complicate Washington’s plans for possible war on Iraq.

Arafat, 73, is under pressure from the Palestinian Parliament to enact security and anti-corruption reforms that the United States says are needed for any return to talks on statehood. He is widely expected to be re-elected Palestinian leader in an election set for Jan. 20.

If these people re-elect Arafat, I see a slim chance of a Palestine state any time soon.

i would have to agree with you.

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quote:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Originally posted by dnice35

ARAFAT IN TIGHT GRIP

Israel’s confinement of Arafat is its tightest since its forces surrounded the former guerrilla leader in 1982 during the Lebanon war. It has raised fears of a new surge of violence that could complicate Washington’s plans for possible war on Iraq.

Arafat, 73, is under pressure from the Palestinian Parliament to enact security and anti-corruption reforms that the United States says are needed for any return to talks on statehood. He is widely expected to be re-elected Palestinian leader in an election set for Jan. 20.

If these people re-elect Arafat, I see a slim chance of a Palestine state any time soon.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

i would have to agree with you.

You mean to tell me we finally agree on something? :eek:

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