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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
30 April 2001
D i v i s i o n f o r P a l e s t i n i a n R i g h t s

Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine
Monthly media monitoring review

April 2001


Three Palestinian teenagers were injured by live Israeli gunfire in separate clashes in the Gaza Strip and another boy was declared dead around two weeks after Israeli troops had shot him near Ramallah, medical sources said. (AFP)

Israeli army bulldozers uprooted olive trees in the village of Deir Istiya, southwest of Nablus, Palestinian officials and witnesses said. Dozens of local residents blocked the path of the bulldozers and managed to temporarily stop them after around 100 trees had been destroyed. Local Palestinian council leader Nafiz Mansur told AFP the fields had been razed to make way for the widening of a road used by Jewish settlers in the area. He said a military order confiscating the land had been sent to the council over the weekend, complaining that he was given no time to appeal against the decision. According to Palestinian figures, the Israeli army has uprooted around 20,000 trees and dozens of Palestinian homes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the Palestinian uprising broke out in late September 2000. (AFP)

Israel said it was allowing some 500 Palestinian businessmen into its territory and between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as part of efforts to ease the economic sanctions against the Palestinians. Israeli spokesman Yarden Vatikay said a total of 1,000 businessmen and traders were now allowed into Israel. Israeli Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer hoped in this way to improve conditions for the Palestinians and had also asked the army to examine where it would be possible to lift the blockade, Mr. Vatikay added. (AFP, AP)

Speaking at the opening of the Inter-Parliamentary Union's annual conference in Havana, Cuba's National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the creation of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. Mr. Alarcon also said that the necessary measures should be taken “to stop the brutal repression of the Palestinian people and the cruel blockade imposed on them”. (AFP, Reuters)

A Saudi solidarity committee headed by Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz announced a grant of US$2.44 million to Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, raising its backing over the past six months to a total of US$41 million. The official news agency SPA said the latest aid went directly to 892 Palestinians who had lost their homes or farms at the hands of the Israeli army during clashes since the end of September 2000. (AFP)


Jewish settlers in Hebron blew up a gas cylinder in a Palestinian store overnight, lightly injuring several Israeli soldiers posted nearby, the IDF said, adding that the shop in the Israeli-controlled centre of Hebron was also broken into and looted. Three shops were destroyed in the explosion and another four damaged, an AFP correspondent said. Israeli public radio reported that seven other gas cylinders, prepared for explosion, were discovered in the area where the attack took place. The Settlers’ Council, the main organisation representing Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, issued a statement saying it condemned the incidents and voicing its unreserved support for the army, Israeli radio said. Residents also said that the windows of a mosque in the city centre had been broken. (AFP, Reuters)

A 26-year-old Palestinian, Mohammed Abdelal, a married father of three and Islamic Jihad activist, was leaving his home in Rafah on the border between the southern Gaza Strip and Egypt, when two helicopters fired on his vehicle, witnesses said. Medical sources said Abdelal’s body had been severely burnt in the attack and that three passers-by had been injured by shrapnel. (AFP, Reuters)

Dozens of acres of agricultural land north of the town of Beit Hanoun, in the north of the Gaza Strip, were razed by Israeli army tanks and bulldozers, witnesses said. The farmland, in an area under full Palestinian control, was used for growing oranges, vegetables and other crops. (AFP)

Heavy fighting erupted between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen in Bethlehem, near Rachel’s Tomb, IDF and Palestinian officials said. An Israeli soldier was shot dead and nine Palestinians, including two children aged seven and eight, were reportedly wounded. Salah Al-Taamari, a Palestinian official in Bethlehem, said by telephone that the army was directing tank shells and heavy machine-gun fire at the refugee camps of Aida and Azza and at an area north of Bethlehem following a Palestinian protest. The army spokesman said its troops were firing only from machine-guns mounted on tanks. Two helicopters hovered over the Palestinian-ruled town as the fighting raged. Palestinian medical sources said ambulances could not reach the area as the Israeli fire intensified. (AFP, Reuters)

At a meeting with President Mubarak in Washington, President Bush said the US would work with Egypt to “try to convince all parties involved to lay down their arms, so there will be less violence” and encourage discussions to begin again, adding that he was “very optimistic” that would be achieved. “We will remain very actively engaged, and hopefully there will be positive results”, President Bush said. (AFP, Reuters)

Following meetings with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Thorbjoern Jagland, Israeli Foreign Minister Peres said in Oslo that he saw “light at the end of the tunnel”, despite the fierce violence, and that the time had come to “stop shooting and start talking”. Mr. Jagland, a member of the Fact-Finding Committee, said the Committee’s main objective was to halt the violence and said he had a feeling they were being heard. He called on both sides to take immediate steps that would end the violence and the Israeli blockade of Palestinian cities. (AFP, Reuters)


Prime Minister Sharon instructed the IDF to make every effort not to uproot trees in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israeli Army Radio reported. According to Mr. Sharon's directive, if the IDF determined terrorists were using trees for cover, it should prune the lower branches and not cut down the whole tree, which the IDF had been doing until that time. (The Jerusalem Post – Internet Edition)

Israeli helicopter gunships hit Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip, hours after a Palestinian mortar attack against the “Atzmona” settlement, near Rafah, caused the critical wounding of a 10-month-old Israeli baby boy. An Israeli military spokesman said the IDF were taking action against targets “directly linked to terrorist activity against Israel”. The helicopter gunships attacked at least three Palestinian towns in the Gaza Strip, namely Gaza City, Rafah and Khan Yunis. Thirty-five injured were reported in Rafah and 10 in Gaza City, where power was disrupted after the attack. Following the Israeli shelling of the Gaza Strip, the Secretary-General of the PA Presidency Tayeb Abdul Raheem called for international protection for the Palestinian people. “We ask Arab and international forces to support the right of the Palestinian people to international protection in the face of this continuing aggression”, Mr. Abdul Raheem said. He also criticized the use of “American aircraft, of the Apache type, American naval warships and American missiles” by the Israelis in their attacks. (AFP, Reuters)

Following the air strikes on the Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks shelled Force 17 installations at Beitunia, south-west of Ramallah, and El-Bireh, to the west, during the night. An ambulance man at the scene said the Force 17 position at Beitunia was completely destroyed but there were no injuries, because the building had been empty at the time. Shells fired from Israeli tanks also fell on Salfit, south-west of Nablus, witnesses said, while Israeli army positions fired from machine-guns on Nablus and Tulkarm after being fired on by Palestinian gunmen, other witnesses said. (AFP)

Lieutenant Colonel Yazeed Khader, in charge of Palestinian intelligence in Nablus, was arrested by Israel on the Allenby Bridge, on his way back from Amman, where he had received medical treatment, according to Palestinian security forces. For its part, Israeli public radio said Israel had arrested at the Allenby bridge a Palestinian officer suspected of planning anti-Israeli attacks. (AFP, XINHUA)


The PLO distributed to the media in Ramallah the final report, which it had submitted to the Fact-Finding Committee the previous day. In the 72-page report the PLO asserted that Israel's characterisation of the intifadah as an armed conflict “ignored basic realities”. “Demonstrations are resistance to occupation and … Israel as an occupying power has a duty to ensure that the Palestinian people are protected”, the report said, adding that “The presence of firearms at some demonstrations and the use of firearms in some occasions does not convert an outbreak of acts of resistance against an occupying army into an 'armed conflict'”. The PLO demanded that Israel stop using “excessive force” in its attempt to quell the uprising and that Jewish settlers stop attacking Palestinian civilians. It said an international force would help halt the violence and facilitate the movement of Palestinians living in areas captured by Israel in 1967. (Reuters)

The Israeli army fired mortars on a Force 17 post in the Gaza Strip, in response to a Palestinian mortar attack on the nearby settlement of “Netzarim”, which allegedly originated from there. A clash later erupted between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli troops near “Netzarim”, leaving two Palestinians wounded by live bullets, medical sources said. In the West Bank village of Al-Khader, near Bethlehem, an exchange of fire erupted overnight between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops and the IDF shelled the area for around an hour, injuring five people, witnesses and medical sources said. Clashes broke out after hundreds of people swarmed the streets in protest at the Israeli army's destruction of two Palestinian homes without giving residents time to remove their belongings, witnesses said. In Hebron, IDF bulldozers razed four newly-built Palestinian homes, saying they had been constructed without permission. (AFP, DPA, EFE)

Foreign Minister Peres held talks with PA Ministers Nabil Shaath and Saeb Erakat in Athens, on the sidelines of an economic conference. This was the highest-level encounter between the two sides since Prime Minister Sharon took office. Earlier, Messrs Peres and Shaath had met with EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana. Mr. Solana told reporters he had repeated an appeal to both sides “to condemn violence from whatever quarter, exercise maximum restraint and renew their security cooperation on a systematic and regular basis”. Mr. Peres said there was an “urgent immediate need for a security arrangement” and expressed the hope that talks on security would eventually lead to a resumption of peace negotiations. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Erakat expressed the hope that the United States would continue to play a role and called for an end to the violence on both sides, to stop the killing of Israeli and Palestinian children, as he put it. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

The PA was facing a deficit of US$371 million for its 2001 budget, according to a draft presented to the Palestinian Council. Revenue was marked at US$758 million against spending of US$1.129 billion, according to the draft, making for a deficit of around 33 per cent. Security spending was set at 30.49 per cent, compared with 17.07 per cent for education and 8.4 per cent for health, 5.42 per cent for social affairs and 30.83 per cent for ministries and institutions; more than 60 per cent of the spending would go on salaries. Palestinian officials accused Israel of withholding US$400 million in tax revenues and customs duties that it had collected on behalf of the PA under economic accords. The Palestinian Council was to vote through a video-conference link between 28 of its members meeting in Ramallah and 25 more in Gaza City, while other members would vote by telephone, e-mail or fax, because of Israeli travel restrictions. (AFP)

The Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli Civil Administration had demolished 25 Palestinian buildings in the West Bank in the current week. The demolitions, undertaken primarily for security concerns, were carried out in accordance with Israeli law, Army Radio said. (The Jerusalem Post – Internet Edition)

PA Industry Minister Sa’di Alkrunz said at a press conference in Gaza City that Israel had “taken all the measures it needed to wreck the industrial sector, which had succeeded over the past few years in becoming the spearhead” of the Palestinian economy. According to Mr. Alkrunz, the Israeli army had destroyed 57 Palestinians industrial plants, causing an estimated loss of US$24 million. He accused Israel of blocking customs clearance of Palestinian products in Israeli ports in order to prevent direct imports and added that, without the Israeli “aggression” of recent months, the GDP growth rate that had been 19 per cent in 1999 would have reached 21 per cent in 2000. (AFP)

The PA received a second 15-million-dollar payment from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the Palestinian Ambassador in Riyadh Hashem Al-Sheikh Dib announced. He explained this payment was the second instalment of the US$60 million pledged by the IDB over four months; the first 15-million instalment had been paid in the previous month. The US$60 million, allocated to help the PA pay the salaries of its civil servants, were taken from the two Jeddah-based Arab funds established to support the Palestinians at the Arab summit in Cairo six months earlier and placed under IDB management. (AFP)


High-level Israeli and Palestinian security officials held an overnight meeting with US presence at an undisclosed location in central Israel. The Israeli team included Avi Dichter, Head of Israel's General Security Service (Shin Bet), IDF Central Commander Yitzhak Eitan, Southern Commander Doron Almog, and head of the IDF's Operations Directorate Giora Eiland. The Palestinian team included Palestinian Intelligence Agency chief Amin Al-Hindi and Palestinian Preventive Security Service chiefs Mohammad Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub. According to sources from the two sides, all security issues had been raised but no agreement had been reached. The Palestinians demanded that the Israeli army withdrew its tanks and lifted the blockade of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Israelis reiterated their position that there would not be any negotiations “under violence and terrorism”. The two sides agreed to hold further meetings with US facilitation. (AFP, XINHUA)

Following the high-level security meeting, there was a shooting incident involving Palestinian officials, who had participated in the meeting, and Israeli troops. Just as the convoy of Palestinian officials was crossing into the Gaza Strip through the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing point, shots were fired at them, resulting in the wounding of two bodyguards. “It was a pre-planned ambush”, said Palestinian intelligence chief Amin Al-Hindi, who was in the convoy with the head of preventative security in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed Dahlan, and Gaza general security chief Abdel Razeq al-Majeida. The IDF claimed that they had reacted to fire from one of the Palestinian escorting vehicles on an army post. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called the shooting “a very serious incident” and said it had prompted immediate phone calls from Secretary Powell to Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat. “We wanted to ensure that escalation would not ensue”, Mr. Boucher told reporters, adding that Washington understood Messrs Sharon and Arafat had also spoken to each other after the incident. The State Department spokesman affirmed that Israel had a responsibility to provide the safety and security of Palestinian officials travelling to and from security meetings, adding that although US officials were still unclear of the details, Prime Minister Sharon had assured Secretary Powell that the shooting had not been deliberate. A senior US official said the shooting had occurred within earshot of US embassy employees who had shuttled the Palestinians to the meeting from Gaza. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The Israeli Housing and Construction Ministry called for tenders for the construction of 708 new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank, 496 of them in “Maale Adumim”, east of Jerusalem, and 212 in “Alfei Menasheh”, near Qalqilya. An official in Prime Minister Sharon's office cited by the radio said the move did not contradict the Prime Minister's commitment “not to build new settlements but allow the natural development of those already existing”. Peace Now director Moria Shlomot said the timing of this publication of the tender raised the suspicion it was meant to sabotage any chance of a cease-fire being achieved in renewed Israeli-Palestinian contacts. The group said there were currently 6,130 housing units under construction in the settlements, with 3,575 tenders published during Mr. Barak’s tenure. Meretz party leader Yossi Sarid called for the Government to immediately cancel the tenders, saying that any Israeli-Palestinian accord would require the dismantling of the settlements. The Council for Jewish Settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the main settler organisation, hailed the move, saying it responded to “natural population growth”. (AFP, Reuters)

The Swedish presidency of the European Union expressed “grave concern” at the continuing Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including plans for new settlements and expansion of existing ones. In its statement the presidency condemned Israel's settlement policy saying that: “Settlements change the physical character and demographic composition of the occupied territories. All settlement activities are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to peace”. The EU called on the Israeli Government to prevent the implementation of these plans. (Nordic Business Report, Reuters)

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that continuing settlement activity by Israel was “provocative” and risked “further inflaming an already volatile situation in the region”. (AFP)

Israeli soldiers shot dead 15-year-old Ahmed Mahmoud Al-Assar during a clash with stone-throwing protesters at a checkpoint near the “ Netzarim” settlement in the Gaza Strip, hospital officials said. The boy was killed, and three young people were hurt, on the Palestinians’ annual Children’s Day, dedicated this year to remembering the scores of children killed in more than six months of violence. (AFP, Reuters)

In its annual report for 2000, the Defence for Children International/Palestine Section said a third of the Palestinian victims from the first three months of the intifadah were under 18 years old. “The figures reflect the Israeli side's ability to kill in cold blood and show that they are executing children in the streets”, the head of the group's administrative council, Elias Rishmawi, told a press conference. The report, which was published to coincide with the Day of the Palestinian Child, said 105 Palestinian children had been killed by Israel in 2000, 94 of them during the intifadah, in addition to a total 2,258 injured, 2,022 of them during the intifadah. 72 per cent of those killed were shot in the head or chest. (AFP)

The Israeli army had assassinated a leading member of Islamic Jihad in Jenin, Israel Radio reported. Iyad Abu Hirdan, 25, was killed in a blast at a public telephone booth, which had been booby-trapped, the radio quoted Palestinian security sources as saying. He had been arrested by Palestinian police six weeks earlier and had left his PA prison cell to use the public phone, as he often did; he was due to return to the prison after placing his call. (Reuters, XINHUA)

Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono contacted separately by telephone Israeli Foreign Minister Peres and Palestinian Planning and International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath, both in Athens at the time, to convey Japan’s deep concern over the ongoing Middle East violence and reiterate its wish to see both parties returning to the negotiating table, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said. The Japanese Foreign Minister urged Israel to practice self-restraint and asked it to ease the sanctions against the Palestinians, saying they were “devastating” the Palestinian economy. Mr. Peres replied that his Government would continue to hold dialogue and had no intention to “destroy” the Palestinian Authority. In his conversation with Mr. Shaath, Mr. Kono praised the bilateral talks in Athens and offered Japan’s support, while also pledging to continue supporting Palestinians who have been affected by the violence. (AFP, DPA, Kyodo)

Israeli forces shelled the Palestinian village of Beit Sahur, near Bethlehem, following an exchange of fire between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops. Witnesses said the army had fired around a dozen shells from tanks and had used heavy machine-guns in the assault, which damaged at least six Palestinian homes in the village southeast of Bethlehem but did not cause any injuries. (AFP)


Twenty-nine Palestinians were lightly wounded in clashes with Israeli soldiers across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, most of them by rubber bullets, medical sources said. Eighteen of them were hit near Ramallah, when around 300 people clashed with troops at an Israeli army checkpoint north of Al-Bireh. In Bethlehem, in a clash near Rachel’s Tomb, five Palestinians were shot by Israeli troops who opened fire on around 70 youths demonstrating against “assassinations” of prominent Palestinians. The troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the stone-throwing crowd, who had marched to an army checkpoint after Friday prayers. A Palestinian national security position was hit by two shells and two Palestinian homes in southern Gaza City were damaged by Israeli tank fire in retaliation for four mortars thrown at the “Netzarim” settlement; there were no victims in both cases. Overnight, Israeli helicopter gunships had launched raids on Palestinian police headquarters in the Gaza Strip following a Palestinian mortar attack on 5 April. Witnesses said that Palestinian police and intelligence headquarters located in Beit Lahea in northern Gaza were struck by fire from Israeli mortars and tanks. Palestinian police commander Abdel Razek Majaideh said Israeli helicopter gunships bombed four police bases in northern Gaza and the Jabalya refugee camp. Six people, including two police officers, were injured in the air raids, the third in eight days, according to General Saeb al-Ajiz, commander of Palestinian national security in the northern Gaza Strip. An electric power substation was damaged and the city of Gaza was left without electricity. Clashes were also reported in Hebron, where one person was injured, and the village of Al-Khader near Bethlehem, witnesses said. (AFP, ITAR-TASS, Reuters, XINHUA)

French foreign ministry spokesman François Rivasseau said in Paris that Israel had taken a wrong turn in areas such as “the provocative announcement of the resumption of settlements in the occupied territories, the continuation of so-called extrajudicial murders, the military clashes in Gaza and attacks on the safety of negotiators”. He warned that “the logic of force will lead nowhere and Israel is heading down the wrong path” and called for a “real dialogue” to end the conflict and avoid further violence, suffering and destruction. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, by a vote of 48 in favour, two against and two abstentions, adopted a resolution reaffirming the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and statehood, calling it a basic condition for achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East. The United States and Guatemala voted against the resolution, put forward by Arab and Islamic States. China, France, the Russian Federation and the UK were among those who voted in favour. (AFP, Reuters)


In reaction to a recent Israeli announcement of settlement expansion plans, the PA Cabinet and the PLO Executive Committee issued a statement describing settlements as “the most serious form of aggression against the Palestinian people” and affirming that the Palestinians would “continue to defend our land and our lives against Israeli occupation and colonisation, which are cancers”. The statement, carried by WAFA, also said that “security and stability cannot be achieved while settlement eats up Palestinian land” and “continued settlement building torpedoes all efforts towards resuming peace negotiations and violates all signed agreements”. The statement called on the members of the international community, “who consider settlements to be an illegal and provocative measure and an obstacle to peace, to act within the United Nations Security Council to ensure protection for the Palestinian people”. (AFP, DPA)

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Russia opposed the building of new and expansion of old Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It called on Israel to abandon its plans, as such unilateral action, which violated international law, could “only throw oil on the fire of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. (AFP, XINHUA)

The Israeli Army had overnight destroyed two Force 17 installations in the Gaza Strip and four other Palestinian buildings, witnesses said. The IDF confirmed bulldozing two Force 17 buildings and a Palestinian police post in response to “terrorist attacks against civilians and Israeli soldiers”, including mortar fire on “Netzarim”. One Force 17 member was seriously injured in a gunfight with Israeli soldiers who were destroying one of the posts in Gaza City, witnesses and hospital sources said. Bulldozers and tanks also destroyed a Palestinian public security office, two private homes in the Sheikh Ajlin region, and agricultural land under the protection of heavily armed Israeli soldiers, witnesses said. (AFP, Reuters)

Israel Radio said Chairman Arafat had spoken by telephone with Prime Minister Sharon to wish the Jewish people a happy Passover. Mr. Sharon's office said his response to Mr. Arafat’s gesture on the eve of the holiday was guarded and the Prime Minister took the opportunity to reiterate his demand that violence stop before peace talks restart. A Palestinian official said Mr. Arafat had also spoken with Foreign Minister Peres and expressed the hope that stalled peace talks would resume. (AFP, Reuters)


Chairman Arafat met President Mubarak in Cairo. Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa and PA Ministers Nabil Shaath and Saeb Erakat also attended the meeting, which according to Mr. Moussa focused on the “explosive situation in the occupied territories and provocative acts by Israel against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza”. While in Cairo, Mr. Arafat also met the Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid, who said Arabs would revive efforts with Europeans to get UN Security Council backing for international protection for the Palestinians. He added that if efforts in the Council failed, the Arab League might call on the UN General Assembly to override the US veto. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

An 18-month-old Palestinian girl was in critical condition, after Israeli soldiers confronting stone-throwing Palestinian youths had shot her in the head with a rubber-coated bullet, as her family walked home through the village of Al-Khader, near Bethlehem, Palestinian witnesses and medical sources said. A PA police source said Israeli missiles struck a Fatah office and a police station in Beit Lahia, near the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing to Israel; no casualties were reported. (Reuters)

The Palestinian economy has suffered losses of US$3.86 billion, due to the Israeli blockade since the start of the intifadah, according to a report released by the PA Finance Ministry. The report also said Israel held on to goods headed for the Occupied Palestinian Territory at Israeli customs posts, estimating the number of detained containers at 3,500. (AFP)


In a letter to Secretary of State Powell, Prime Minister Sharon expressed regret for the shooting incident involving the high-level Palestinian convoy and described it as “unfortunate” but placed the onus of responsibility for the atmosphere leading up to it on the shoulders of the PA. The letter detailed the findings of an Israeli investigation into the incident. The enquiry found that the army had responded to shots fired, which may have been fired accidentally, and did not necessarily come from the convoy. (AFP)

EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg warned Israel to stop building Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, saying violence in the region would not end without such a move. “We want no new settlements and a restart of negotiations and peace talks” between Israel and the Palestinians, Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh said. EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana added that it was difficult to see how things could get better in the region if the settlements did not stop. He appealed to both sides to stop the violence. (DPA)

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York that he was in contact with all the key players in the Middle East and beyond, in an effort “to work with the parties to try and end the violence and move on to ease the economic situation of the Palestinians and of course prepare the ground for talks”. Referring to “those who believe that as long as the violence is going on, one should not talk”, Mr. Annan said emphatically: “I personally disagree with that – I think that is one more reason to talk, and it underscores the urgency for bringing the parties together, and I would work with others to see what we can do to bring the violence to an end”. (AFP, Reuters, UN Newservice)

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said both Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat had agreed “in principle” to continue security talks, in separate telephone conversations they had had with Secretary Powell the previous day. Mr. Boucher said the US continued to put emphasis on bilateral discussions between the parties, which it was willing to facilitate, if it could. He refused to comment on the cancellation of a meeting of senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials, which had reportedly been agreed to during the separate calls between Secretary Powell and Messrs. Sharon and Arafat. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Ha’aretz reported that the Israeli Government was planning to market plots for the construction of 5,000 homes in the occupied West Bank this year, saying the target for 2001 was 78 per cent higher compared to last year’s figure of 2,800 plots sold by the Housing and Construction Ministry. Following a meeting with Prime Minister Sharon on the issue of settlements, Foreign Minister Peres stated that there were no plans to build more settlements and the expansion of existing settlements would be limited to “natural growth”, according to Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post. (AFP, Ha’aretz – English Internet Edition, The Jerusalem Post- Internet Edition)


Israel fired anti-tank missiles at the headquarters of Palestinian naval police at Sudania and at a Palestinian police headquarters in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp, both in the Gaza Strip. One officer, who was also a physician, was killed and 17 were wounded, Palestinian police said. The IDF said the two surface-to-surface missile had been fired in retaliation for a series of mortar attacks at Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, including one earlier in the day. Major General Abdel-Razek Al-Majaydeh, Palestinian Public Security Chief in Gaza, surveying the damage, said there was a “state of war” in progress. PA Presidency Secretary-General Tayyeb Abdul Rahim condemned the strikes as an act of all-out “declared war” and renewed Palestinian demands for international protection. Just before the strikes, Prime Minister Sharon had been visiting the Nahal Oz kibbutz, near the border with the Gaza Strip, where he said Israel had a “clear plan” to restore security in the area. According to AFP, the latest death brought the number of those killed during the intifadah to 471, among them 386 Palestinians, 71 Israelis, 13 Arab Israelis and one German. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

In what it called a first step, Israel issued 3,200 new permits to allow Palestinian workers to return to Israel, mostly in orchards. About 750 had already held permits for the harvest. However, only about 500 Palestinians crossed into Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinian officials saw the move as cosmetic, with more than 100,000 Palestinians still prevented from working in Israel. (Reuters)


A Palestinian policeman and a civilian were killed and some 40 wounded during Israel’s overnight shelling of the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Palestinians said 27 homes had been destroyed in the unprecedented raid, which Israel said was aimed at taking out buildings suspected of serving as bases for mortar attacks against Jewish settlements and army posts in the area. After a meeting chaired by Chairman Arafat, the PLO Executive Committee issued a statement saying, “The policy of the Israeli government escalates the problems... and will lead to extremely dangerous results, hindering all peaceful solutions and the resumption of the peace process”. (AFP, Reuters)

Sweden, the current holder of the EU presidency, and Norway, co-chairing a donor community’s Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee, announced at a news conference in Stockholm that the meeting had been an unexpected success, thanks to a Saudi Arabian pledge of US $225 million in direct budgetary support for the PA. According to the World Bank, which was to monitor the disbursements and their proper use, the Saudi Arabian pledge was enough to sustain the PA needs for the coming six months. Participants, including the US, the EU, several Arab countries, the World Bank, the IMF and the Islamic Development Bank, unanimously called on Israel to immediately pay out the taxes collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. (AFP, Reuters)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

(UN Press Release SG/SM/7766)

Israeli and Palestinian security officials held talks at the US Ambassador’s residence near Tel Aviv. The meeting was also attended by CIA officials. The Israeli participants included Avi Dichter, head of Israel’s General Security Service (Shin Bet), IDF Central Commander Yitzhak Eitan, and Southern Commander Doron Almog. The Palestinian team included Palestinian Intelligence Agency chief Amin Al-Hindi and Palestinian Preventive Security Service chief Jibril Rajoub. The Palestinians said Israel had pledged to take steps to ease its blockade of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AFP, DPA, Jerusalem Post – Internet Edition)


A Palestinian teenager was killed by Israeli army gunfire during clashes in Beit Ommar, near Hebron, hospital sources said. A Palestinian civilian was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the Khan Yunis area of the Gaza Strip and a seven-year old Palestinian girl was shot in the face by an Israeli rubber bullet while at school in the West Bank village of Al-Khader. Two Palestinian teenage boys were also shot by rubber bullets outside the school during a demonstration. Heavy gunfire erupted between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians after Palestinian security officials had turned away 30 soldiers trying to enter the Palestinian-controlled Beit Jalla to do house searches. A Palestinian refugee camp at Rafah was shelled after two Israeli soldiers had been wounded by Palestinian fire. (AFP, DPA)

The US and Russia, in a joint appeal, called on Israelis and Palestinians “to take parallel and reciprocal steps to reduce the violence, calm the situation and create an environment in which both sides can find a way forward". Secretary of State Powell and his Russian counterpart Ivanov issued the statement after a meeting in Paris. (AFP, Comtex Scientific Corporation)


A Hamas activist was killed in an explosion in Gaza City. Mohammed Yassin Nassar, 24, was killed and another four people were wounded, two of them seriously, security and medical sources said, adding that one of those injured was a 13-year-boy. Witnesses said the house, which was used by Hamas activists, had been destroyed when hit by Israeli rockets fired from the nearby Karni checkpoint. (AFP)


Jordanian Foreign Minister Abd al-Illa Al-Hatib met with Israeli officials to present them with a Jordanian-Egyptian plan aimed at ending the violence and resuming the peace negotiations. Foreign Minister Peres told a news conference after meeting Mr. Al-Hatib, that it was “not wise” to give an immediate answer to the proposal, which had to be studied. According to Ha'aretz, the plan comprised three “baskets of measures”: a calming basket, which would see both sides implement a cease fire and Israel lift its military and economic sanctions against the Palestinians: a confidence building basket, dealing primarily with implementing existing interim agreements, and a political basket, dealing with the renewal of negotiations on a permanent settlement, with a target date for their conclusion. According to Ha’aretz, Prime Minister Sharon’s main objection to the plan referred to the idea that a deadline be set for reaching a final status agreement. Mr. Sharon had said on numerous occasions that he desired a long-term interim agreement with the Palestinians, including a non-belligerency pact, and not a final status deal. (DPA, Ha’aretz - English Internet Edition, Jerusalem Post – Internet Edition, Washington Post)

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat reiterated a Palestinian demand for an international protection force to be sent to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. “Before the whole region gets into a wave of violence and destruction, the United Nations and other active countries must move as quick as possible to protect the Palestinian people from the Israeli aggression,” Mr. Erakat said. He added that the PA in the last few days had sent more than 92 letters to world leaders urging them to revive the Palestinian demand for international protection. (DPA)

Palestinian sources said Israel had again closed the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. (DPA)

Israeli tanks fired at Palestinian security positions in the northern Gaza Strip, injuring three people, in a retaliation for a mortar attack on an Israeli town nearby, sources on both sides said. The tanks fired shells against two positions of the Palestinian public security and border police at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Israel, a Palestinian security source said. Three members of the Palestinian security forces were injured by shrapnel. (AFP)

Israel launched massive air, land and sea strikes along almost the entire length of the Gaza Strip during the night, targeting Palestinian security posts. Gaza City’s main police headquarters and two locations of the Force 17 security unit were among at least seven main targets in an attack that lasted more than four hours. The IDF virtually reoccupied the area, imposing a blockade on the Gaza City, and dissecting the Gaza Strip into three isolated areas. More than 20 tanks and armoured personnel carriers were deployed in the area. Palestinian border police positions in Beit Hanoun, areas under full Palestinian control, were occupied and bulldozed. The Israeli attack came after five mortar shells had been fired on the Israeli town of Sderot, located northeast of the Gaza Strip, though no casualties had been reported. The Israeli army also bombarded the towns of Beit Jalla and Hebron, after Palestinians fired at the “Gilo” settlement. (AFP, Comtex Scientific Corporation, Ha’aretz – English Internet Edition, Reuters, XINHUA)


US Secretary of State Powell issued a written statement blaming Israel for using “excessive and disproportionate” force in its massive air, land and sea offensive on the Gaza Strip a day earlier, and urged the Israeli forces to withdraw. “We call upon both sides to respect the agreements they have signed,” Secretary Powell said, noting that for the Palestinians that meant renouncing terrorism and bringing all Palestinian military forces under control. “For the Israelis, “ he added, “this includes respecting their commitment to withdraw from Gaza, according to the terms of the agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinians. There can be no military solution to this conflict.” Referring to a broad range of events over the last four days, he said the situation was “threatening to escalate further” and posed the risk of a broader conflict in the region. Soon after Mr. Powell’s statement was read out at the State Department, the IDF publicly announced that it was withdrawing from the positions it had occupied. Britain and France, respectively, called the Israeli incursions “unjustifiable” and “unacceptable”. (AFP, Comtex Scientific Corporation, DPA, Ha’aretz - English Internet Edition, New York Times, Reuters)

A 24-year-old Palestinian policeman was killed when Israeli tanks shelled a Palestinian police post near the village of Beit Hanoun. Palestinian hospital authorities said that at least 27 people had been wounded. A 14-year old Palestinian boy was killed by an Israeli bullet near the Karni crossing. A 10-year-old Palestinian boy, Baraa Jalal al-Shaer, was shot in the head by the Israeli army, as he was on his way back from school near Rafah. Palestinian medical sources said he was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition and later died of his injuries. Later in the day, a 17-year-old Palestinian, Rami Mussa, was killed when was hit in the chest by shrapnel from Israeli tank shells fired on Al-Khader near Bethlehem. Shrapnel from the same shells injured seven other Palestinians, according to the same sources. Overnight, in Hebron, eight Palestinians were wounded by Israeli tank fire aimed at Palestinian areas. Among the wounded were four women who had been hit by shrapnel fragments in their homes, Palestinian police said. (AFP, Ha’aretz - English Internet Edition, Reuters)


Israeli tanks and bulldozers re-entered the Palestinian-controlled area near Gaza International Airport and demolished a Palestinian police post before withdrawing. The operation was reportedly carried out in retaliation for Palestinian mortar attacks against the “Neveh Dekalim” settlement. (AFP, AP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post – Internet Edition)

Israeli officials reiterated rejection of a plan proposed jointly by Egypt and Jordan to help end the Israeli-Palestinian violence and restart their peace talks. According to Israel Radio, Israeli officials at the Prime Minister’s office had found the plan “unacceptable” and “incapable of serving as a basis for halting the violence and resuming the peace negotiations”. (Comtex Scientific Corporation, DPA)

At its 57th session, the UN Commission on Human Rights overwhelmingly adopted two resolutions on the question of Palestine. One resolution, adopted with 28 votes in favour, two against (the US and Guatemala) and 22 abstentions, condemned the “disproportionate and indiscriminate recourse to force, which cannot but aggravate the situation and increase an already high death toll”, and “extrajudicial killings of certain Palestinians carried out by the Israeli security forces”. A second resolution, presented by Sweden on behalf of the EU, called on Israel to “forgo and prevent any new installation of settlers in the occupied territories”, was adopted with 50 in favour, one against (US) and one abstention. (UN Press release on the work of the Commission of Human Rights - 18 April 2001, AFP, Reuters)

The US Administration announced it had decided to extend for six months a waiver, which enabled the PLO to operate an office in Washington. The six-monthly waivers have been routine since 1994, but this was the first since President Bush took office in January. (Reuters)


UN officials filed a complaint with the Israeli army after soldiers delayed their UNRWA convoy for nearly two hours at a roadblock in the Gaza Strip. The UN Special Coordinator Terje Rød-Larsen protested the violation to Foreign Minister Peres. Mr. Rød-Larsen said he had informed Mr. Peres that blocking the convoy was “in violation of Israel’s international obligation”. (UN Press release from the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process - issued 19 April 2001, Reuters)

Chairman Arafat ordered an end to mortar attacks against Israel and Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Prime Minister Sharon’s spokesman Raanan Gissin told AFP Israel “hail[ed] any calming declaration” by Mr. Arafat, but wanted to see what would happen on the ground. (AFP, DPA)

The Swedish Presidency of the EU said in a statement that “the excessive use of the army and the disproportionate Israeli reply to mortar attacks from Palestinian-administered territories on Israeli targets further escalate violence and aggravate the conflict”, adding that Israeli incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas were “illegal and must not be repeated”. It called on the parties to exercise “maximum restraint” and to engage in serious negotiations. Foreign Minister Peres told EU envoy Miguel Moratinos that Israel was unhappy with the EU’s unbalanced statement that “ignore[d] the reality” of Palestinian firing on innocent civilians. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post – Internet Edition)

UN Special Coordinator Terje Rød-Larsen and EU special envoy Miguel Moratinos held separate meetings with Chairman Arafat. No details of the talks were released. (Reuters)

Palestinian and Israeli sources confirmed that Foreign Minister Peres and PA Minister and senior negotiator Saeb Erakat had met near Jerusalem. No details were released about their discussions. (DPA)


A suggestion by Chairman Arafat through visiting US Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), that a joint statement be issued with Prime Minister Sharon calling for an end to violence, was rejected by Mr. Sharon, who asked for concrete action on the ground. After his meetings with Messrs Sharon and Arafat, Mr. Kolbe said he had been unable to build a bridge between the two leaders. (DPA, Reuters)

Nazareth’s Arab-language newspaper Al-Sennara quoted Arab Israeli Cabinet Minister Salah Tarif as saying that secret talks, both direct and indirect, aimed at resuming negotiations, were under way between Israeli and Palestinian individuals. Mr. Tarif added that the possibility for calm to be restored in the region had not been ruled out and that “major progress” could be expected in Israeli-Palestinian relations under Prime Minister Sharon’s Government. (AFP)

Israel announced an easing of travel restrictions in the Gaza Strip. PA Minister and senior negotiator Saeb Erakat told Reuters that the situation on the ground contradicted the Israeli statement and some concrete roadblocks remained on a main road near the settlement of “Netzarim”; he urged Israel to put a complete end to its blockades. (AFP, Reuters)

French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine welcomed as “an improvement” the “first small steps” towards peace in the Middle East, namely the fact that the Israeli army had “ended or scaled down” its blockade of the Gaza Strip and that Chairman Arafat had engaged personally to stop mortar fire. He warned, however, that the underlying problem remained “the blockade of other occupied territory, the total suffocation of the Palestinian economy and the continuation of the policy of settlement – which has been at the heart of the problem for 33 years”. True political dialogue would be best served by Israel declaring it was “freezing settlement and lifting all the blockades’ and the Palestinians announcing “an end to all forms of violence”, Mr. Védrine added. (AFP, XINHUA)

Four Palestinians were lightly wounded by rubber bullets in Ramallah, where Israeli soldiers opened fire on Palestinians throwing stones at them. A number of Palestinian demonstrators suffered minor illnesses from tear gas fired by the soldiers at the clash. South of Ramallah, two Palestinians were injured by live rounds in a clash with Israeli troops at the Kalandia refugee camp; a military spokesman confirmed the incident but denied the IDF had used live rounds. Another Palestinian was injured by Israeli army fire in a clash in Hebron. Israeli soldiers also wounded a Palestinian journalist working with Abu Dhabi satellite television, while she was covering damage caused by recent Israeli raids on the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP, Reuters)

Responding to Palestinian stone-throwing after Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israeli police in battle gear stormed Al-Haram al-Sharif. There was no shooting during the incident and only minor injuries were reported. Police did not enter the Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques. (DPA, Reuters)

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed the importance of recognizing that the issues of violence, economic deprivation and the political process in the Middle East were interlinked and had to be tackled flexibly. He reiterated the critical need for the parties to resume their negotiations “now that the killing is going on – now that we are living this tragedy”. Concerning his meeting on 19 April with Permanent Representatives from the Arab Group, the Secretary-General said they had stressed that the Security Council “should take some action, should take initiatives that will help galvanize the parties to recognize that they have to work to stop the violence and begin to improve the situation and engage in the dialogue”. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen and UN Special Coordinator Terje Rød-Larsen met with Foreign Minister Peres in Tel Aviv, following an incident in Gaza on 19 April when Mr. Hansen was stopped for over one hour at an Israeli checkpoint. After the meeting, Mr. Rød-Larsen said he had been assured by Mr. Peres that “the policy of the Government of Israel was to facilitate the work of the United Nations, and humanitarian workers in general”. According to a UN spokesman, an “open dialogue” on the issue would continue. Foreign Minister Peres said he had designated a high-level Foreign Ministry official to work with UNRWA in the days ahead. (UN Newservice)

A statement issued after the Palestinian leadership’s weekly meeting under Chairman Arafat called on the UN Security Council to prevent further Israeli “aggression” in the region by adopting “a resolution imposing on Israel the application of resolutions 242, 338 and 425” and again asked for “international protection for the Palestinian people”. (AFP)


Speaking on Israel Radio, Foreign Minister Peres confirmed he had been conducting secret talks with senior Palestinian officials, including Palestinian Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei, in order to end the conflict and resume peace talks. He said he would report to the Prime Minister and the Government if progress was made and insisted that talks with the Palestinians was the only way to end the confrontation. (XINHUA)

Israeli tanks and bulldozers crossed into Palestinian-controlled territory near Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, just east of Gaza International Airport, and demolished a Palestinian police post. An Israeli army spokeswoman called the incursion a “pinpoint operation to stop gunfire that was directed towards [Israeli] forces from the post”. There were no reported casualties. (AFP, Reuters)

Several dozen members of Ta’ayoush (Coexistence), a joint Jewish-Arab group opposing Israel’s closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said they struggled with Israeli soldiers in the village of Yusuf, near Nablus, as they tried to unload tins of food, bags of sugar and other goods for the cut-off Palestinian population. Ta’ayoush activist Miri Weingarten said they had entered the area with two trucks to deliver the supplies but the army declared the area a closed military zone and arrested eight of Ta’ayoush members. The IDF said they had declared this Area B territory a closed military zone for security reasons and in order to prevent confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians. (AFP, Reuters)

A special session of the League of Arab States, held in Cairo at the level of permanent, decided to swiftly dispatch envoys to the US, the UN and the EU to explain the gravity of the Middle East situation and renew demands for an international protection force in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The final statement called on the US to stop delivering to Israel weapons used against Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian people. Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel Meguid said he had discussed the issues over the telephone with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and had expressed to him the hope that the US would not veto another Security Council resolution on the Palestinians. According to Mr. Abdel Meguid, Mr. Annan had showed understanding and had promised to convey the Arab point of view to the US and the rest of the Security Council membership. Mr. Abdel Meguid said the US had adopted a positive position through its recent criticism of Israel. (AFP, XINHUA)

Israeli and Palestinian security officials held late-night talks at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip. A statement issued by the office of Prime Minister Sharon after the three-hour meeting said a “good and serious” mood had prevailed, adding that the two sides had “agreed upon long-term and ongoing security cooperation”. “It was decided to implement a series of steps, which would bring about a cessation of the ongoing terror and violence and the continuation of the easing of civil and economic restrictions on the Palestinians”, the statement said. According to Palestinian sources, there had been “sharp verbal exchanges” between the senior security officials of the two sides. Palestinian Public Security Chief Abdel-Razek Al-Majaydeh said the Palestinian side had given the Israeli delegation a list of Israeli violations of signed accords, including the demolition of Palestinian buildings, the closure of road and border crossings, bombardment of Palestinian positions and the increase in Palestinian casualties. He said the Palestinian side demanded, inter alia, the reopening of blocked roads and the Gaza International Airport but the Israeli side had “failed to meet” minimum Palestinian requirements. Mr. Al-Majaydeh added that the Palestinians were still waiting for concrete responses from the Israelis to their legitimate demands. (AFP, Reuters)


A Palestinian security officer, member of Force 17, died of wounds he had suffered during the previous week’s Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip. His death brought to 486 the number of people killed during the intifadah, 399 of them Palestinians, 73 Israelis, 13 Israeli Arabs and one German national. (AFP)

Prime Minister Sharon’s spokesman Raanan Gissin said Israel held the PA responsible for a suicide bombing that killed two persons and wounded many others in the Israeli town of Kfar Saba, near Tel Aviv. PA Presidency Secretary-General Tayyeb Abdul Raheem rejected the Israeli accusations and said such statements did not achieve security but caused deterioration. He said that the PA opposed acts targeting civilians on either side and added that “security in the region can only be achieved by returning to pre-September conditions, implementing outstanding agreements and reviving final status talks”. (AFP, Reuters)

Following his meeting with Foreign Minister Peres in Jerusalem, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said his country would work to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to peace negotiations when it assumed the EU presidency in July. Mr. Michel said a peace plan, which had been put forward by Egypt and Jordan in the previous week for breaking the deadlock, could be the first stepping-stone to a full resumption of peace talks. He reportedly urged Israel to hand over US$400 million in taxes and customs excises withheld from the Palestinians, to which Mr. Peres responded negatively, saying that would be tantamount to aiding forces directly responsible for terrorist attacks. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)


Israeli security forces arrested Misbah Aref Sabatin, 30, a local Fatah official, at his home in Husan village, west of Bethlehem, in an area under Israeli security control and Palestinian civilian control. The reasons for the arrest were not known. Two Palestinian youths were also arrested at their homes at around the same time, residents said. The Bethlehem-based Prisoners’ Club, which works for the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails, said Israel has arrested some 165 people from the village since the beginning of the intifadah, 80 of whom were still in detention. A total of around 2,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails, according to the group’s figures. (AFP)

Israel had reservations about a Jordanian-Egyptian initiative for re-starting peace talks with the Palestinians but had not rejected the idea, Prime Minister Sharon’s spokesman Raanan Gissin said, adding that Israel’s Foreign Ministry was looking over the plan and would submit a list of reservations to Egypt and Jordan. Israeli Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh told Israel Radio the main problem was with terms for ceasing hostilities, which required immediate steps from the Israeli side while the requirements on the Palestinians were vague and without a strict implementation timetable. According to Mr. Gissin, Israel also opposed using old formulas for talks to end the conflict because they had already failed. He said Jordan was not opposed to revising the plan to meet Israel’s demands. (AFP, Reuters)

A brief meeting of Israeli and Palestinian security liaison officers took place to discuss the situation on the ground in the Gaza Strip, according to a Palestinian security official, who said the meeting had ended with Israel still insisting on not lifting the closure of Gaza International Airport, the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and roads inside the Gaza Strip. Israeli public radio reported that the meeting had taken place at the Tel Aviv suburb residence of US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, although an Israeli Cabinet spokesman refused to confirm the session. (AFP)

Israeli troops shot dead Muhanad Muhareb, a Palestinian teenager, and wounded 14 other Palestinians, during a funeral procession near the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Witnesses said hundreds of mourners were marching in an orderly fashion in the funeral, when they came under fire from the Israeli post at the “Ghanei Tal” settlement, about 500 metres away. (AFP, Reuters)

Foreign Minister Peres, on an official visit to Cyprus, said there had been peace meetings there in the past and the island could again host such meetings between Israelis and Palestinians in the future. (Reuters)

Following a car bomb explosion in Or Yehuda, south-east of Tel Aviv, which lightly injured four people, Chairman Arafat told reporters he was against any attacks on civilians. Speaking after a meeting with Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, Mr. Arafat said he had discussed “ways to save the peace process” with the Minister and what was needed was not just European pressure but international pressure to push the peace process forward and protect it. For his part, Mr. Michel said the EU would work to “put the peace process back on track”, despite what he described as “wide gaps” between the Israeli and Palestinian sides. (AFP)

UN Special Coordinator Terje Rød-Larsen said that Secretary-General Kofi Annan had asked him to embark on a series of contacts with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Jordan to try to produce agreement on the Egyptian-Jordanian peace initiative that would bring the sides back to the negotiating table. Mr. Rød-Larsen told Reuters that violence threatened to spin out of control but there were also grounds for optimism and the continuation of talks should be encouraged, as nobody could afford a regional conflict. (Reuters)

Palestinian and Israeli security liaison officers met in the Gaza Strip but the meeting broke down after 15 minutes, against the backdrop of continuing violence. Later in the day, another security meeting between the two sides took place at the residence of the US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. IDF said in a statement that the two sides had “decided to make an effort to lower the level of violence and improve security coordination”. Israeli Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer said he was “encouraged” by the outcome but cautioned that the real problem was implementation on the ground. (AFP, AP, Reuters, XINHUA)

Speaking at a press conference with PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath in Ramallah, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Piqué reiterated the EU’s and Spain’s rejection of Israel’s settlement policy and pledged Spain's backing for the Egyptian-Jordanian peace plan. Mr. Piqué also said that it was essential that the blockade of Palestinian areas be lifted and that Israel free the funds that it had frozen since the start of the intifadah. “The economic and humanitarian situation for Palestinians is critical, and that is why the support of the EU, and of Spain in particular, is so important”, Mr. Piqué noted. (EFE)


Foreign Minister Peres told Israeli public radio that the fourth version of the Egyptian-Jordanian peace plan, which had been presented to Israel, could serve as the basis for discussion. He also said Israel had decided to ease the closure imposed on Jericho, after receiving Palestinian assurances that there would be no more shootings on the road around the city. “Government policy is to ease everywhere possible the life conditions of the Palestinian population. We don’t want to impose a collective punishment, on the contrary we want to ease the blockades on the cities, allow traffic on the roads and authorise Palestinians to return to work in Israel”, Peres added. (AFP, Reuters)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa said in Cairo that Egypt and Jordan would discuss changes to their peace initiative, “on condition they do not undermine the basis of peace”. Mr. Moussa added that “Egypt had received neither a response nor a request for modifications from Israel concerning this initiative”, according to remarks reported in Al-Ahram. (AFP)

The Government of Japan decided to contribute an additional 299.6 million yen (about US$2.5 million) to UNDP, to help Palestinians suffering economically as a result of the continuing violence. (DPA, EFE, Kyodo)

The IDF imposed a total blockade on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, because of the annual celebrations to mark Israeli Remembrance Day and Independence Day, on 25 and 26 April, respectively, a military spokesman said in a statement. He added that Palestinian workers would not be allowed to cross into Israel and that crossing points – including the Allenby Bridge between the West Bank and Jordan, and Rafah between the Gaza Strip and Egypt – would be closed. Transporting goods would also be banned between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The blockade on the Gaza Strip would affect maritime traffic. The only exception to the blockade, which would last until 27 April, would be for humanitarian cases, the statement said, adding that Israelis were still banned from entering Palestinian areas. (AFP, DPA, XINHUA)

Officials in charge of cultural heritage and antiquities from 16 Arab countries met at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo to coordinate their action aimed at preventing Israel from registering sites in East Jerusalem as UNESCO world heritage. The meeting, chaired by Egyptian Culture Minister Farouq Hosni, examined a Palestinian memorandum opposing an Israeli request filed last July with the UNESCO world heritage committee to register Mount Olive and neighbouring sites as Israeli heritage. The Israeli request had been rejected by the UNESCO world heritage committee last November, at its meeting in Cairns, Australia, but Israel intended to submit it anew at the committee’s meeting in Paris next June. (AFP)

The British daily The Guardian reported that EU member States were actively debating a change in their approach to Israel, considering measures that would reflect their opposition to Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. Decisions were expected at two Foreign Ministers’ meetings next month. (Ha’aretz - English Internet Edition)

A Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli troops in the northern Gaza Strip, near the Beit Hanoun (Erez) border crossing with Israel, Palestinian medical and security sources said. The body of Yusef Abu Hamda, 40, was handed over to the Palestinian liaison committee by the Israeli army. The Palestinian security officials said the IDF had informed them that the man had been caught trying to sneak into Israel. Residents described him as psychologically disturbed. A second Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops. A live bullet hit 24-year-old Iya Al-Hirish in the chest during a clash between Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinian protesters in Qalqilya; he was pronounced dead upon his arrival at the hospital, Palestinian medical sources said. Two Palestinian civilians were wounded overnight during fighting between Palestinians and the Israeli army in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. Three Palestinians, including a 75-year-old man, were in a moderate to serious condition after being hit by pieces of shrapnel when Israeli shells hit a residential area in Rafah. The shells were fired from Israeli tanks stationed on the border with Egypt and targeted the Bawabat Salaheddin residential area. (AFP)


In an interview to The Jerusalem Post, Prime Minister Sharon said he would send Foreign Minister Peres to Egypt to discuss Israel’s response to the Egyptian-Jordanian proposal aimed at restarting negotiations with the Palestinians. Regarding the proposal, he said “initiatives are important” but Israel thought some changes and improvements were needed, which would be what Mr. Peres would discuss in Egypt. He reiterated that, before anything else, there should be “an end to terror, of all kinds, and not just mortars”. In his interview, due to be published in full on 27 April, Mr. Sharon also said Israel was holding high-level economic discussions with the Palestinians concerning a number of large projects, including joint use of Israel’s planned water desalination plant, improving the water supply to Hebron and Kiryat Arba, and a Gaza-Tulkarm train line. (The Jerusalem Post – Internet Edition)

Prime Minister Sharon said that a joint Israeli-Palestinian team would investigate the issue of continued mortar shelling of Israeli settlements. In an interview on Israel Radio, Mr. Sharon said Chairman Arafat had called his son Omri late on 24 April, following the mortar firing on the settlement of “Gadid”, in the southern Gaza Strip, and notified him that steps had been taken to prevent the firing. (AFP, Ha’aretz - English Internet Edition)

Jewish settlers attacked Palestinians in Hebron. A Palestinian child was wounded in the head by a stone, while others were beaten by dozens of settlers who attacked the Palestinians after a fire fight between Israeli soldiers and armed men in the Abu Sneinah neighbourhood. The Israeli army arrested a number of Palestinian youths and imposed a curfew on the city. (AFP)

President Mubarak completed a 24-hour visit to Berlin, during which he had met with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. In his meetings with the German leadership, Mr. Mubarak argued in favour of the EU and Germany taking on more responsibility in helping defuse the crisis in the Middle East and getting Palestinian-Israeli peace talks back on track. (AFP)

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Moscow would make every effort to ensure an end to violence and a resumption of peace talks in the Middle East. “The Palestinian problem is so complex and versatile that no country on earth is able to resolve it on its own”, Mr. Ivanov said, adding that collective and concerted effort was a must. (ITAR-TASS)

According to a survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), almost two-thirds of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip lived below the poverty line. The survey of 2,394 households was conducted between 10 March and 5 April and revealed that more than 64 per cent (over 2.1 million) lived on an income of less than US$400 a month, PCBS Director Hassan Abu Libdeh told a press conference in Ramallah. He said poverty was highest in the overcrowded and hard-hit Gaza Strip, with more than 81 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. It was also high in the refugee camps, with almost 79 per cent of their residents classed as poor, despite a relief programme by UNRWA in the camps it supervises. Most of the camps' residents used to work in Israel and had lost their jobs, following the outbreak of the intifadah, Mr. Abu Libdeh said. Figures by the PCBS put the Palestinian unemployment rate at around 40 per cent of the workforce compared to around 10 per cent before the outbreak of the intifadah. Mr. Abu Libdeh said that in addition to the high poverty figure, almost 11 per cent of the households surveyed reported a total loss of income during the intifadah and almost 50 per cent said they have lost more than half of their income. The median monthly income also declined by almost half, from US$600 before October to US$300. The survey also showed that more than 80 per cent of the households had reduced their expenditure, 55 per cent were not able to pay their bills on time, 41 per cent used their savings and 40 per cent borrowed money to pay for basic needs. It also showed that less than a half of the households interviewed had received humanitarian aid. Those who had received said it amounted to only US$25 during the entire seven months of violence. Only a small percentage said they got a total of US$100. Mr. Abu Libdeh warned of “a real disaster in the Gaza Strip and the refugee camps”, unless something was done to alleviate the problem. He suggested the establishment of an emergency economic committee to deal with the problems caused by the Israeli measures before they got any worse and to direct assistance to the most needy. (DPA)

A two-day conference in support of the Palestinian uprising in Tehran, attended by more than 30 countries and Islamic movements opposed to the Middle East peace process, closed with a final statement calling on Islamic nations to “break all ties, especially political and economic” with Israel and denouncing “organised crimes by Israel against the Palestinian people, the attacks against leaders of Palestinian movements, the destruction or the seizure of houses and land, as well as the development of Jewish sites”; it called for the establishment of an international court to try Israeli “war crimes”. The document, signed by more than 30 countries, condemned what it called Israel’s efforts to Judaize Jerusalem, which it said must be the capital of a future Palestinian State, and characterized Israel’s nuclear weapons stockpile as “a threat to peace and stability in the region”. It also condemned the US for its political, military and economic support of Israel and called for an Arab and Muslim boycott of US products, which could be turned into a “total and global embargo” if the US went ahead with plans to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. (AFP, DPA, XINHUA)

Four Palestinians, including three members of Fatah and a teenage boy, were killed in an explosion near the Rafah crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt; six others were injured. The Palestinian side, including Minister and chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, blamed the Israelis, describing the incident as an “assassination” and stressing the need for international protection for the Palestinian people. An IDF spokesperson denied any knowledge of the incident. A Palestinian medical official said another Palestinian, Ibrahim Abu Awaila, 20, had died in a Cairo hospital of wounds sustained during an Israeli raid on the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip earlier in April. Crossfire erupted overnight between Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank town of Beit Jalla and Israeli soldiers protecting the nearby “Gilo” settlement. Israeli tanks shelled houses in Beit Jalla, causing extensive damage. (AFP, AP, EFE, Reuters, XINHUA)


President Bush telephoned Prime Minister Sharon to discuss ways to secure peace in the region, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters in Crawford, Texas. He said Mr. Bush believed very strongly that the only way to secure a lasting peace in the Middle East was for the violence to stop first, as he understood how difficult it was to engage in securing an agreement while there was bloodshed in the streets. “The President’s approach is that the United States can be constructive in facilitating the peace, not forcing the peace”, Mr. Fleischer stressed. (AFP, Reuters)

Testifying on the State Department budget to the Appropriations Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Committee, Secretary Powell said the US was very closely studying the Egyptian-Jordanian peace plan and there could be “something that comes out of that that would be a basis to move forward, but ... we are not going to move forward until the violence starts to go in the other direction”. He noted that Foreign Minister Peres’s forthcoming visits to Egypt and Jordan to discuss their proposal and the resumption of US-hosted Israeli-Palestinian security talks represented some positive movement, “a little bit of progress”, but he was not “hyperventilating” with anticipation. Mr. Powell assured the congressional committee that he and President Bush remained seriously engaged in regional peace efforts but were ready to step up their involvement, possibly with the appointment of a new special Middle East envoy, if there was enough progress to warrant it. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Israeli troops fired on Palestinian farm workers picking oranges at the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, killing 40-year-old Atef Ahmed Wahdan, Palestinian security sources said. (AFP, XINHUA)


Senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials met at the IDF headquarters in the West Bank, near Ramallah. No major progress was achieved during the two-hour meeting, according to the Palestinian side, who said that they expected to hear from the Israelis about previous pledges they had made to lift the blockade but got no concrete answers. (AFP, Reuters)

After talks at the Kremlin with President Mubarak, President Putin praised the Egyptian-Jordanian peace plan as “movement in the right direction”, although he noted that it was only “one basis and much remain[ed] to be considered and made acceptable to the other countries involved in the conflict”. Mr. Putin said halting violence and resuming talks were vital and no peace settlement was possible without taking into account the viewpoints of all parties; adding that it was also critical to take account of previous accords, including UN resolutions. Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Vitaly Sredin, in comments released as the Russian-Egyptian talks got under way, said the Egyptian-Jordanian proposal “deserved very serious attention” and “create[d] the base for seeking a way to launch talks”. Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov was quoted as saying that Russia and Egypt agreed that the Middle East conflict could only be resolved by peaceful means and not “with the tanks, warplanes and ships that today are bombarding the Palestinian towns”. “The more severe the blockade, the worse the terror will be in response”, Mr. Seleznyov reportedly added. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

A Palestinian policeman was wounded in an exchange of fire between armed Palestinians and the IDF at the northern entrance to Ramallah. Nine civilians were also hurt in a clash preceding the gunbattle, when Israeli soldiers responded to Palestinian stone-throwers, Palestinian hospital officials said. In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian witnesses said Ismail Abu Rumeya, 37, had been killed by troops guarding the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, near the Israeli village of Kissufim, having seen the Israelis take away his body. But an Israeli source said Mr. Abu Rumeya was being cared for in the orthopaedic wing of the Sorak hospital in Beersheba. Colonel Khaled Abu Ula, Palestinian head of a liaison committee with the Israelis in the southern Gaza Strip, also told AFP he had been assured that Mr. Abu Rumeya was still alive. Separately, the Israeli army announced the arrest of a Fatah official overnight in the village of Salem near Nablus. Another Fatah official, Salah Abu Hamed, 35, was held as he was returning to the Gaza Strip from Egypt, relatives said. (AFP, Reuters)

Following the new security talks between the two sides, the Israeli Defence Ministry announced it would relax some restrictions imposed during the intifadah and would allow 11,000 more Palestinians to return to work in Israel, in addition to the 4,000 who had obtained work permits in recent weeks and another 6,000 who had been allowed to work in Israeli firms established in Palestinian areas and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The statement from the office of Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer said he had also “ordered an examination at the beginning of next week into easing the closures and passage on the roads” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AFP, Reuters)

The PLO Executive Committee, meeting under Chairman Arafat in Ramallah, called on the US Administration “to work to find a just solution ... to halt the military escalation, the closure and the violence of which the Palestinians are victims”, according to a statement carried by WAFA. The Committee stressed the importance of “resuming peace negotiations at the point at which they were stopped ... and agreeing to the Egyptian-Jordanian plan”. A later meeting of the Palestinian leadership, also under Chairman Arafat, charged Israel with “pursuing an aggressive military escalation”, according to a communiqué also carried by WAFA. “The statements of Israel about appeasement and easing of the closure … are only attempts to mask the continued aggression on the ground”, the communiqué added, accusing Israel of attending security meetings for the third week running without any sincere readiness to act to change the situation. (AFP)


Following an afternoon mortar attack on “Netzer Hazani”, of the “Gush Katif” block of settlements in the south-western part of the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the injury of five settlers, IDF vehicles blocked off the Salaheddin highway in the middle of the Strip, preventing movement of people between the north and the south. They also shut down a parallel route that had only been opened earlier in the day to allow movement of Palestinian police between the north and south of the Strip for the first time in more than four months. (AFP)

Chairman Arafat called on the PA security forces to prevent further mortar attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli targets, a Palestinian official said, adding that patrols would be stepped up to prevent such attacks in the future. (AFP)

Palestinian hospital officials said Israeli soldiers had killed a 34-year-old Palestinian, Imad Karakei, a Fatah activist, and had wounded his five-year-old son and a relative, as they drove a car to the Aida refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Also, violent clashes broke out between armed Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip, leaving four Palestinians wounded. One of the wounded was hit in the head when the Israeli army replied to Palestinian gunfire with heavy weaponry, targeting an area close to the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. The IDF then fired heavy weapons from the “Gush Katif” settlement block on another sector of Khan Yunis, where Force 17 held a position until they left it just recently. That shooting wounded three other Palestinians – a 45-year-old man, a 28-year-old woman and a 12-year-old child. There were other exchanges of fire in the area close to the “Netzarim” settlement but there were no reports of injuries. (AFP, Reuters)


Foreign Minister Peres held meetings with President Mubarak in Cairo and King Abdullah II in Aqaba. The talks focused on the Egyptian-Jordanian proposal and Mr. Peres announced an easing of the Israeli closure on the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Remarks by President Mubarak after his meeting with Mr. Peres gave the impression that there had been an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on a cease-fire but this was denied by an Israeli Foreign ministry spokesman, who noted that there was “a general understanding on the need to curb the violence as the only way to relaunch the peace negotiations”. A Jordanian spokesman said Mr. Peres had informed the King that Israel would immediately begin to take measures to reduce the restrictions on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the reopening of the Gaza airport. The measures outlined by Mr. Peres also included “an increase in the number of permits allocated to Palestinian workers in Israel and an improvement of conditions for Palestinian fishermen, the spokesman said. King Abdullah stressed that a “total lift” of the Israeli blockade was an “essential condition to create the favourable climate for a resumption of peace talks”, the spokesman said. Upon his return to Israel, Mr. Peres said that “Israel has not yet responded to the [Egyptian-Jordanian] proposal”, a decision expected soon after he had briefed Prime Minister Sharon and the Israeli Government on this matter, which he did before his departure to the US. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said at his Egypt and Jordan meetings Mr. Peres had presented Israel’s reservations on the Egyptian-Jordanian plan, central among which was that there should be a complete cessation of violence against Israelis before negotiations could begin. (AFP, XINHUA)

Meetings between Israeli and Palestinian security officials in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip did not make any progress towards easing the closure of the Palestinian areas, Palestinian officials reported. General Ribhi Arafat, West Bank liaison with the Israeli army, told Voice of Palestine radio that easing the blockade was a political decision that Israel had not yet made. (AFP)


EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said Israel and the Palestinians were moving “very slowly” towards ending violence and reviving stalled talks. Mr. Solana, on a two-day visit to the region, told Reuters he had discussed the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative with senior officials from both sides, including Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat, but it was hard to predict how things would evolve. Mr. Solana heard from Mr. Sharon that there would be no peace talks until there was “a complete halt to terrorism in all its forms”, according to a statement by the Prime Minister's office. Mr. Solana also held meetings with President Mubarak in Cairo and King Abdullah in Amman and expressed the EU’s backing of the Egyptian-Jordanian proposal and of all efforts that could bring an end to the deadly confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

The Israeli Defence Ministry decided to ease a travel ban barring Israelis from entering Jericho. Israel Radio said Israeli soldiers at the roadblocks surrounding the city had begun allowing Israeli Arab citizens with relatives or property in Jericho to enter the city, which has been closed off last September. IDF officials cautioned that the easing of Jericho’s closure depended on continued quiet in the area. (XINHUA)

According to a survey of 7,495 households conducted by the PCBS, unemployment in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, had reached 37.7 per cent in the first four months of 2001, up from 10 per cent last September, when the intifadah started. Hassan Abu Libdeh, the Bureau’s Director, told a news conference that the Palestinian labour force was in severe danger due to the Israeli measures, adding that an emergency plan was needed “if this society is to go on”. He said the Palestinian Authority should work with other Arab countries to find ways to overcome the economic crisis. (Reuters)

A bomb exploded in a parked car belonging to a Jewish settler in the Gaza Strip, killing one Palestinian and wounding another one, the Israeli army said. The man killed in the blast had been working in the “Rafiah-Yam” settlement at the time. In Ramallah, a powerful explosion ripped apart an apartment building, killing an eight-year-old girl and an eighteen-year-old boy, with another three persons injured and three missing, Palestinian security sources said and accused the Israeli army of setting off the blast in an attempt to kill Palestinian activists. A 38-year-old Palestinian was shot dead in the West Bank village of Hableh as he tried to flee what residents said was an Israeli undercover raid. In a separate incident, the IDF said soldiers had wounded two Palestinian gunmen who fired on them overnight from a car near the “Avney-Hefetz” settlement, south of Tulkarm. (AFP, Reuters)

Prior to a private meeting with Foreign Minister Peres at UN Headquarters, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was actively engaged with the parties to the Middle East conflict and with other leaders who were trying to make a difference on the ground, stressing that Israel and the Palestinians would have to take reciprocal steps to end the violence. He added that he was encouraged by discussions around the Egyptian-Israeli peace proposal. (UN Newservice)

Following their meeting, Foreign Minister Peres said he had expressed his appreciation to the Secretary-General for his constructive speech at the League of Arab States Summit in Amman last March, informed him about the present status of talks on security, and about his recent visits to Egypt and Jordan. Regarding contradicting statements made after his meeting with President Mubarak in Cairo on 29 April, the Foreign Minister said Israel and the Palestinians had reached an “understanding'” on a cease-fire but there was no written agreement yet. According to Mr. Peres, Israel preferred face-to-face talks with the Palestinians, once a cease-fire was in place, rather than giving the US the leading role in Middle East peace talks, although US support would be appreciated. The Foreign Minister stressed that Israel had decided “unilaterally and unconditionally'” to ease the economic plight of Palestinians, saying Israel was “against collective punishment”. One move, announced earlier in Israel, was to increase the number of permits for Palestinians to work in Israel to a total of 40,000 and for Palestinian merchants to remain in Israel to 5,000, at the same time lifting restrictions on trade with the Palestinians. Other measures included building a pipeline to bring Israeli water to Hebron and offering to Palestinians to build a power and a water purifying plant, Mr. Peres said. (Reuters, UN Newservice)

PA Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nabil Amer said Israel was behind a 30 April explosion at a building in Ramallah, which resulted in the death of two Palestinian children and Fatah activist Hassan el-Khadi. Mr. Amer told Voice of Palestine radio that Israel was now targeting populated areas, in an attempt to terrorise the Palestinian people. Israeli Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer, speaking on Israel military radio, denied the accusations and attributed the explosion to a “work accident” during the preparation of explosive material by Palestinians. (AFP, Reuters)

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