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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
31 October 2003
Division for Palestinian Rights

Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine

MONTHLY MEDIA MONITORING REVIEW

October 2003


1

During an IDF operation near Tulkarm, reportedly a member of the Islamic Jihad, identified as Mazen Al-Badawi, was killed and Rabah Abu Dakka, 24, was wounded and later died from his injuries. At least three other Palestinians were also wounded. Palestinian sources said there had been no exchange of fire, and that Mr. Al-Badawi had been gunned down in the street as he was trying to flee the scene. Palestinian sources also said Mr. Abu Dakka, hit in the chest and head by several bullets, happened to be out on the street at the time of the raid. (Albawaba.com, Middle East Online, Reuters)

Israeli troops, supported by tanks, reportedly raided the Jenin refugee camp in the early hours of the day. Soldiers arrested Sheikh Bassam Saadi, 43, an Islamic Jihad leader accused of planning a suicide bomb attack in northern Israel in July 2003. In past years, Israeli troops had killed Mr. Saadi’s two sons and mother and destroyed his house. Witnesses said three other Palestinians had been detained. (Albawaba.com, DPA, Reuters)

IDF soldiers entered Qalqilya, prompting a firefight with Palestinians. The army imposed a curfew and searched houses. (DPA)

In Rafah, Israeli soldiers demolished 15 houses. The army said that after it had destroyed tin huts and a wall the soldiers had come under fire. Sources said the troops also destroyed a tunnel that was used to smuggle arms from Egypt. Palestinian medical officials said three people were wounded in the action. (DPA, Reuters)

Israeli troops seized 14 suspected Palestinian militants near Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron. (Middle East Online, Reuters)

The Israeli Cabinet approved the second phase of the construction of a separation barrier in the West Bank. Under the plan, the Cabinet reportedly decided to press on with the construction, and under US pressure opted for the time being to leave a gap at one point, to be patrolled by troops. This would allow delaying a decision on whether the barrier should loop around the “Ariel” settlement, 20 km inside the West Bank. The plan included the construction of horseshoe-shaped barriers around “Ariel” and three other large West Bank settlements. The open end of the horseshoes would point to the west, affording Israel the opportunity to connect them to the main barrier at a later stage, which was expected to be six months or more away. Under the plan, construction of the main sector of the wall would begin east of the “Ariel” and “Kedumim” settlements. The plan was approved by an 18-4 majority, with one abstention. The barrier was expected to cost over US$500 million. “This will further radicalize Palestinian society,” PA Labour Minister Ghassan Khatib said, adding that he believed the US could force Israel to back down. US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William J. Burns said on 29 September that Israel “isolates Palestinians from each other, prejudges negotiations, and, like settlement activity, takes us further from the two-State goal.” (The Guardian, Ha’aretz, The New York Times, Reuters)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the US Government should punish Israel for building a barrier through the West Bank by deducting the cost from US loan guarantees. The group made the request in a letter to President Bush. “Even in its first phase, the barrier is taking a terrible toll on tens of thousands of people,” according to Joe Stork, Acting Executive Director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division. “President Bush should ensure that the US Government does its utmost to prevent these serious violations of international law. Deducting the barrier’s cost from the loan guarantees is an obvious place to start.” (AFP)

IDF forces demolished the house of Muhammad Abadallah Abu Marziv, in the Deir Al-Balah refugee camp. According to the army, Mr. Marziv had planned and carried out terrorist attacks. (www.idf.il)

IDF forces in Hebron reportedly arrested two Palestinians, one a member of Hamas and the other of the Islamic Jihad. In addition, seven Palestinians, including four Hamas members, were arrested in the Hebron area. In the Jenin area, six Palestinians were arrested, including two Islamic Jihad members. Four more Palestinians were arrested in Nablus, and one in Ramallah. (www.idf.il)

US State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher said: “Our view on the fence remains unchanged. It remains our long-standing position to oppose activities by either party in the West Bank and Gaza that prejudge final status negotiations. We are continuing to discuss our concerns with the Government of Israel.” (AFP)

Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham and Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amre Moussa condemned Israel’s decision to extend the separation barrier within the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Mr. Moussa, who was meeting with Mr. Graham in Ottawa, said: “The impact is negative, that is clear. The impact on the peace process is negative … it is destroying the peace process, the Road Map and any chance of a peaceful outcome.” Mr. Graham said: “The construction of the wall destroys prospects for peace. It is unwise.” (AFP)

Britain warned Israel that its decision to go ahead with the extension of the barrier would be an “obstacle” to achieving a Middle East peace settlement. The Foreign Office acknowledged Israel’s rights to security, but said the barrier should either follow the Green Line or be built inside Israel: “Breaking up the West Bank with the fence and settlements like ‘Ariel’ are an obstacle to the two-State solution and harm Israel’s long-term security.” (DPA, Ha’aretz)

The Knesset Joint Committee for the Defence Budget discussed transferring NIS 750 million to the separation barrier construction budget. Committee Chair MK Uri Ariel agreed to transfer NIS 405 million. The central segment of the barrier was expected to cost NIS 500 million. (Ha’aretz)

2

According to the media, IDF and Border Police troops shot dead Mazen Yusuf Salameh, 30, an Islamic Jihad leader in Tulkarm. A former activist of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), Mr. Salameh was among the Islamic Jihad commanders in the Tulkarm area, and reportedly was an explosives expert. (Ha’aretz)

In Rafah, Israeli troops reportedly shot dead a 60-year-old Palestinian man and wounded three others, two women and a young man. Witnesses said the troops stationed at the settlement of “Rafiah Yam” had opened gunfire in the residential neighbourhood. (DPA)

The Israeli Government published tenders for a series of building projects planned for three settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Housing Ministry spokesperson Koby Bleich said the tenders were part of “a Government policy by which we are to advance and develop communities in Judea and Samaria in accordance with needs and natural growth.” The plan called for 604 new units near Jerusalem - 50 in “Ma’ale Adumim” and 530 in “Betar Ilit” - and 24 more in “Ariel.” PA Cabinet member Yasser Abed Rabbo said: “This is evidence that the Road Map has been fully assassinated by an Israeli policy of settlement expansion, to which the United States is a witness.” (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

PA Negotiations Minister Saeb Erakat said he had sent letters to members of the Quartet on behalf of the PA, calling for urgent action after Israel had approved a major new phase of the construction of a separation barrier. Mr. Erakat said the continuing construction “translates into demolishing the peace process.” He added: “This is not a separation fence. This is a fence between Palestinians and the Palestinians, with one aim which is to destroy the vision of President Bush.” PA President Arafat said: “Israel is pursuing its crimes by expanding this racist and Nazi wall that expropriates our land.” He accused Israel of “sabotaging and destroying the peace process” and appealed to the Quartet to stop Israel going ahead with the project.(Reuters)

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

(UN press release SG/SM/8913)

United States Secretary of State Colin Powell said: “The President continues to believe that the fence presents a problem. To the extent that the fence intrudes on Palestinian land, that problem is exacerbated. We also have concerns about containing settlement activity on the part of the Israelis.” (Reuters)

European Union High Representative Javier Solana deplored Israeli plans to extend the construction of the separation wall, saying it harmed the peace process by creating a fait accompli. “Taking this decision was not appropriate. I do not think we can accept a wall that creates decisions on the ground about land that … has not been divided.” (Reuters)

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Hervé Ladsous said France would “without delay” hold talks with EU partners, Russia, the United States and the United Nations on the consequences of Israel’s decision to authorize a new phase in the construction of the separation barrier in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “France will coordinate without delay with its European partners and the members of the Quartet to examine the consequences that can be surmised from the decision announced yesterday about the dividing wall,” Mr. Ladsous told reporters. He noted that “the inadmissible character of acquiring land by force is a fundamental principle in Security Council resolution 242 (1967), upon which the peace process is based.” He added: “France recognizes the undeniable right of Israel to security, but disapproves of the decisions that undermine the 1967 borders and prejudge the future borders of Palestine.” (AFP)

In an interview with Izvestia,Palestinian Authority President Arafat said: “Even now we want to cease all hostilities with Israel. But we cannot do without foreign monitors who would watch over such a treaty’s implementation … “The Government is open to all who are ready to act for the Palestinian people’s sake and for the sake of peace. We welcome all who fight Israeli occupation and terror.” (AFP)

3

Three Palestinians were reportedly wounded and some 20 more arrested during an IDF operation in Qabatiya, a village near Jenin. Troops raided a cafe, wounding three Palestinians working there. Two of the injured were arrested, and the third was taken to a Palestinian hospital. Others arrested were patrons at the cafe. (AFP)

Elsewhere, 16 Palestinians were reportedly arrested by Israeli troops, including 15 members of Hamas. Thirteen were captured in the Hebron area, and the others near Nablus. (AFP)

The house of Palestinian lawmaker Mohammed Hijazi reportedly suffered extensive damage and was partially burnt down when it was hit by Israeli tank shells fired on the Tal Zurob neighbourhood of Rafah. (AFP)

According to the media, the IDF arrested two Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

The IDF sealed off the West Bank two days before the Yom Kippur holiday that was to begin on 6 October. Additional effects on the approximately 3.5 million Palestinians were expected to be minimal as the West Bank’s Palestinian towns had been continually sealed off since the beginning of the intifada, and the Gaza Strip had been closed off by an electrical fence. (DPA)

The IDF reportedly wanted to establish so-called “security zones” around settlements east of the separation barrier built in the West Bank. Palestinians would not be allowed to enter those zones, which would be about 400 m wide and feature radar surveillance. Trespassers would risk being shot. The army believed that such security zones were necessary as attacks and ambushes on settlements might increase as a result of the barrier. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

Residents of Sarra, overlooking Nablus, said they had been forced by the IDF at gunpoint to put their fingerprints and signatures on blank sheets of paper. Sidki Awad said he had initially hesitated and complied with the order only after the troops had threatened him. Residents who refused to sign the empty documents said they were beaten by the soldiers. Mr. Mohammed Assad said: “It could be an Israeli stratagem to confiscate our land to build a bypass road through it or to annex it to the ‘Gilad’ settlement outpost.” According to the chairman of the village council, Abdel Halim al-Turabi, at least 15 residents of Sarra had been forced to sign blank sheets of paper. (AFP)

The Israeli soldiers’ weekly, Bahamane,reported that an IDF officer had been charged with killing four Palestinians, a 5-year-old boy, a 6-year-old girl, a boy, 13, and a man, 53, as the result of his order to soldiers to fire tank shells to enforce a curfew in June 2002. Five people had been wounded, including three children and a doctor. The officer, a lieutenant in the armoured corps, had ordered tank crews to open fire to force Palestinians off the streets of Jenin. Military prosecutor Major Ranena Galpaz-Mokadi said an indictment had been filed, although the exact charges were not given. (AP)

4

Israeli troops in armoured vehicles entered the Tulkarm refugee camp and shot dead Sirhan Sirhan, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades accused of being behind an attack on a kibbutz 11 months earlier. The witnesses also said Mohammed Barahmeh, 9, had been shot dead as he walked through the camp during the raid. Mr. Sirhan’s body remained in the hands of security forces. (AFP, Reuters)

A Palestinian suicide bomber blew herself up in a beachfront restaurant in Haifa. Reportedly 19 people, as well as the suicide bomber, were killed and at least 51 were injured. The Islamic Jihad said it was behind the suicide bombing. (AFP, Reuters)

Palestinian Authority officials led by President Arafat condemned the bombing, saying it contradicted Palestinian national interests. He also said the attack gave Israel a “pretext to obstruct international peace efforts.” PA Prime Minister-designate Ahmed Qureia said: “We ask all Palestinian factions, national and Islamic, to immediately stop these operations targeting civilians, which have a negative impact on the Palestinian cause.” He also called on the Israeli Government to halt its confiscation of Palestinian land. PA Negotiations Minister Saeb Erakat said: “The Palestinian National Authority condemns this kind of attack in Haifa. We demand that the United States and the Quartet intervene immediately to stop a further escalation and keep the Road Map on the table.” (AFP, Reuters)

The following is a statement issued by the spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

(UN press release SG/SM/8917)

United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, in an interview with The Washington Post,said he was dissatisfied with the Israeli-built barrier around the Palestinian areas and that US officials were having “intense discussions,” although the US had not yet decided what to do. Mr. Powell said: “We have made it clear that the fence is a problem. If you want to put a fence on something that is a recognized border, the Green Line, then put a fence on your property line. But the more you intrude in Palestinian areas and the more it looks like it could be contiguous intrusion around large sections of Palestinian land that would prejudge subsequent negotiations as to what a Palestinian State may look like, that’s a problem.” (DPA)

Spain suggested that European Union countries sponsor a new United Nations resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to replace all previous decisions on the issue and promote the Road Map peace process. Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio told a news conference she had made the proposal to EU Foreign Ministers attending a summit in Rome. “The proposal that is being discussed is to replace the many UN resolutions on the Middle East by a single resolution - one that could strongly back and consolidate the peace process at a time when it is floundering,” she said. (Reuters)

5

According to Palestinian Authority security sources, one Palestinian was killed and two others were wounded after being shot by Israeli soldiers in southern Gaza. Said Abu Azzum, 29, was killed near a roadblock close to the “Morag” settlement, according to witnesses. The incident occurred as Israeli army bulldozers were levelling land in the area. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military. (AFP)

In Jenin, Israeli troops demolished the family home of 27-year-old Hanadi Jaradat, the Islamic Jihad member who had carried out the suicide bombing in Haifa the previous day. (AP)

Israel launched an air raid on what it said was a training camp close to Damascus which had been used by the Islamic Jihad and Hamas. The Beirut-based spokesman for the Islamic Jihad, Abu Imad Rifai, said the raid had struck the Ain as-Saheb region, about 20 km north-west of Damascus: “This region could shelter Syrian or Palestinian civilians, I don’t know; what is certain is that we don’t have any base or combatants in Syria, where our activities are limited to our media battle.” (AFP)

Israeli helicopter gunships fired at least two missiles at Palestinian targets in Gaza. Witnesses said one missile had sent smoke rising above the city, but could not immediately say what the targets were and had no word of any casualties or damage. (Reuters)

The following is a statement issued by the spokesman for the Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

(UN press release SG/SM/8918)

Palestinian Authority President Arafat declared a state of emergency in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and named Ahmed Qureia as Prime Minister of an emergency cabinet. “President Arafat has signed a decree creating a nine-member emergency government,” Mr. Qureia told AFP. PA parliamentary sources said this would allow the PA leadership to launch a crackdown on militant factions such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. (AFP)

PA Prime Minister Qureia announced an eight-member emergency cabinet which senior officials said would not need parliamentary approval. The cabinet was to be sworn in on 7 October and would serve for a limited term of up to two months. Mr. Qureia initially assigned four portfolios, with the rest to be decided shortly. The following is a preliminary list of Ministers:

Nasser Youssef, Minister of the Interior

Salam Fayyad, Minister of Finance

Nabil Shaath, Minister for Foreign Affairs

Saeb Erakat, Minister for Negotiations Affairs

Nabil Abul Hummus, Minister of Education

Jamal Shobaki, Minister for Local Affairs

Abdel Rahman Hamad

Jawad Tibi


(AP, Reuters)

The US called on all sides in the Middle East conflict to avoid an escalation of violence in the wake of the Israeli attack on Syrian territory. The State Department indicated that Washington would renew its calls on Syria to expel from the country all terrorist organizations and end all contact with them. (DPA)

Britain’s Foreign Office warned that Israel could take steps to protect itself from terrorist attacks but must comply with international law in doing so. “We have already urged and will continue to urge all sides to exercise restraint,” said a Ministry spokesperson, adding that the “Road Map offers a good basis for a peaceful settlement but every act of violence only makes it more difficult to get back to that process.” (AFP)

6

The Palestinian Authority leadership reportedly was preparing for a crackdown on militant groups after Ahmed Qureia had been declared Prime Minister. PA Negotiations Affairs Minister Saeb Erakat said Ministers would formally convene in Ramallah the following day. “We will look at the schedule and see what we can do in the situation that we have in the West Bank and Gaza.” He added: “The emergency Government has already taken a decision to arrest activists from militant factions and those who have taken responsibility for suicide attacks and to shut down the ‘workshops.’” Senior Islamic Jihad official Khaled El-Batsh warned the new Government against targeting the “resistance.” “We want a Government to protect the Palestinian intifada and resistance but if this Government goes to arrest the Palestinian cadres and stop the resistance, it will not have our support.” Hamas spokesman Ismail Haniya also warned that the movement “is worried about Palestinian national unity in these difficult circumstances in the life of our people.” (AFP)

The IDF raided Jenin and Ra’i, a village nearby, arresting 31 Palestinians “suspected of belonging to the Islamic Jihad,” according to its spokesman. An IDF statement claimed that two of those arrested were planning to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel. Palestinian security sources said 22 Palestinians arrested in the Jenin refugee camp were members of the Islamic Jihad. The IDF imposed a curfew on the camp and conducted house-to-house searches following the suicide bombing in Haifa on 5 October carried out by Hanadi Taysir Jaradat, reportedly a 29-year-old female lawyer from Jenin. (AFP, www.idf.il)

Witnesses and hospital officials said IDF troops had fired at Palestinians trying to cross a closed road linking the towns of Rafah and Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, critically wounding a 42-year-old man and injuring a 14-year-old boy in the same spot where a similar incident a day earlier had left one Palestinian dead. (The Jerusalem Post)

The European Union urged all Middle East governments to show great restraint after Israeli aircraft had attacked an alleged Palestinian training camp near Damascus. “The fight against terrorism, in which the European Union is fully engaged, has to take place within the rules of international law. In a crisis area like the Middle East, it is particularly important that any actions taken are conducive to lowering, not increasing tension,” said EU High Representative Javier Solana. European Commission Foreign Relations Spokesperson Emma Udwin said: “Great restraint is required. All parties mush refrain from actions which further inflame the situation.” She urged the Palestinian Authority’s emergency cabinet to take urgent action to stop the “scourge of violence” against Israel. (DPA)

7

According to residents, IDF forces operating in Rafah in the past 48 hours entered the As-Salam neighbourhood with tanks and bulldozers and demolished six houses under intensive gunfire. No injuries were reported. Israel claimed that Palestinians had dug tunnels under the houses and smuggled weapons from Egypt. The Palestinians denied the claim, saying that the aim of the Israelis was to destroy as many Palestinian houses as possible to clear the area near the border with Egypt. Rafah Governor Majeed Al-Agha told reporters that the destruction the IDF had caused in Rafah was “very serious, to the extent that it elevates to carrying out a war against the town.” He said, since the beginning of the intifada three years ago some 1,000 houses in Rafah had been razed, leaving hundreds of people homeless. (AP, Xinhua)

IDF forces reportedly carried out operations near Ramallah, arresting four Palestinians in the village of Al-Mughayyir, north-east of the city, and uprooting 500 olive and almond trees. (Ha’aretz, IPC)

In a ceremony at his Ramallah headquarters, Palestinian Authority President Arafat swore in seven members of the new nine-member emergency cabinet. Two ministers-designate were not present at the ceremony - Interior Minister Nasser Yousef and Health Minister Jawad Tibi - as they apparently had difficulty travelling to Ramallah from Gaza. Ha’aretz reported that each had refused to be sworn in due to a dispute over the scope of their authority. The new cabinet planned to hold its first session shortly after the ceremony. The cabinet had a mandate for 30 days, after which it could be extended for another month, with the approval of two thirds of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The PLC was expected to meet inside Palestinian Authority President Arafat’s compound and vote on the new cabinet, in the presence of European Union representatives and other foreign diplomats. Asked about the top priorities of his new cabinet, Prime Minister Qureia told AFP:“Trying to reach a mutual ceasefire with the Israeli side.” IBA also reported that the new Government planned to arrest those who claimed responsibility for the 4 October suicide bombing. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, IBA, Reuters)

The ASEAN chairperson issued a statement at the end of 9th ASEAN Summit and the 7th ASEAN+3 Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia. The statement, among other things, said: “ASEAN leaders reiterated their support for the Road Map for Peace initiative to end the violence in the Middle East and to secure durable peace on the basis of justice, which would lead to the realization of a viable Palestinian State. We reaffirmed the right to peaceful coexistence of all States in the region within recognized and secure boundaries.” (AFP, www.aseansec.org)

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, speaking after meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Jean Obeid, said: “We believe it is necessary to consider the possibility of conducting an international conference which would consider all aspects of the Middle East peace process, including by taking into account Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese relations.” Mr. Ivanov also said the Security Council should approve the Road Map so that it would “take on a binding character,” according to Interfax. Russia dispatched a newly appointed special envoy, Alexander Kalugin, to the Middle East. “The visit aims to reverse the escalation of Israeli-Palestinian tension and to contribute to a resumption of the peace process in the Middle East,” a Foreign Ministry statement said. “The Russian representatives will pursue their efforts as part of the Quartet to lift the obstacles blocking the implementation of the Road Map,” the statement said. (AFP, AP, www.mid.ru)

Visiting EU Middle East envoy Marc Otte, speaking to reporters after his meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, said it was imperative for the Palestinians and Israel to reach a ceasefire and stop any military actions before resuming their political process. He said the EU was interested in peace in the Middle East and was waiting for the next move by a new Palestinian Government. In return, Israel would positively respond to it, Mr. Otte said. (Xinhua)

In Khan Yunis, Israeli forces occupied the house of Ibrahim Al-Amour and turned it into a military post, confining its residents to the first floor of the house. The soldiers took up positions on the fourth floor where they set up their weapons, according to WAFA News. (Albawaba.com)

Israel announced it was extending the “tight” closure of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip imposed before Yom Kippur, cordoning off Palestinian cities. Military sources reported that the Gaza Strip was divided into four zones, with traffic and movement restricted between them. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gideon Meir said: “There is almost a total closure of the territories. It is a defensive measure to protect Israelis.” (Albawaba.com, AP, The Washington Post)

According to security forces, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz gave the military the go-ahead for a special call-up of reservists, should it deem one necessary . (Reuters)

8

IDF troops at the “Morag” settlement between Khan Yunis and Rafah directed intensive gunfire at residential houses in the area, injuring two Palestinians, including a two-year-old child, according to witnesses. Medical sources at the Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis confirmed that Fadi Abu Rahhal, 22, had been struck in the back by fragments of heavy ammunition fired by soldiers in the area. (Palestine Media Centre, Xinhua)

IDF forces demolished the house of Ahmad Abu Shafe’ in the Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. (Palestine Media Centre)

Israeli police arrested eight settlers trying to set up an outpost between Hebron and “Kiryat Arba.” (Ha’aretz)

Three Israeli soldiers were shot and injured, two seriously and one moderately, when their vehicle came under fire at an intersection near the village of Huwwara, south of Nablus, an IDF spokesman said, adding that the soldiers did not return fire. According to the Israel Broadcasting Authority,soldiers did open fire and an attacker fled towards the village of Baita. (DPA, IBA)

Israeli soldiers reportedly closed down the main Gaza Strip road, Salah Ad-Din, after opening it to Palestinian traffic for two hours. The IDF had set up four roadblocks: the first, the “Netzarim” south of Gaza City; the second, the “Kissufim” roadblock near the “Kfar Darom” settlement east of Deir Al-Balah; the third at the crossroad leading to the “Gush Katif” settlement block; and the fourth between Rafah and Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. The Israeli forces also re-entered the As-Salam neighbourhood of Rafah and destroyed the house of Hafez Soboh, a member of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, who had been killed about two years earlier during an armed ambush at the “Ganei Tal” settlement, north of Khan Yunis. (Xinhua)

According to the media, Prime Minister Sharon convened his Cabinet to discuss Israel’s next steps on its security plans. Israel was set to mobilize thousands of troops to be deployed in the West Bank and Gaza and beef up security during the Sukkot holiday, which was to begin on 10 October and run to 17 October. Extra troops would be stationed to monitor the border crossings between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This followed a report that the suicide bomber who had attacked in Haifa had crossed into Israel in a car with yellow Israeli licence plates at one of the border crossings. “In view of the situation, Israel has reinforced its defensive positions [in the West Bank] to prevent attacks. Some training courses have been partially suspended and a mobilization of reservists is envisaged,” according to one source. (AFP, Albawaba.com, Reuters)

In an interview with Ma’ariv, PA Prime Minister Qureia said he believed he could work with Prime Minister Sharon and secure a ceasefire: “I am willing to begin negotiations with Israel immediately, and I believe I can work with Sharon.” Earlier, Mr. Qureia had told AP: “We are ready, beginning from tomorrow, to sit with them [the Israelis] to discuss reaching a comprehensive ceasefire.” He made it clear that he would not clamp down on militants, saying: “We will not confront, we will not go for a civil war. It’s not in our interest. It’s not in the interest of our people, and it’s not in the interest of the peace process.” (AFP, AP, Reuters)

The Israeli Government reportedly made it clear that it would only consider Mr. Qureia as a partner in the peace process if he showed a determination to take on groups such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Labour Minister Zevulun Orlev restated Israel’s position, saying: “Israel does not have to give him a chance. He needs to prove himself through action and not through pleasant words.” (AFP, The Guardian)

Incoming PA Minister of the Interior Nasser Youssef reportedly said he would only take up his post if the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) backed his appointment as part of a confidence vote on a new emergency cabinet. He made it clear that he would not take up his duties without such a vote to lend legitimacy to any security measures he might implement. Militant groups had criticized the formation of the new cabinet, which they said was being done under US and Israeli pressure. (Reuters)

According to the media, the newly appointed PA emergency cabinet would be put to the PLC on 9 October for a vote of confidence. Saeb Erakat, a member of the new cabinet, said the confidence vote had been agreed to because legal experts were divided over whether Palestinian law permitted appointment of an emergency 30-day government. “We don’t think Palestinian democracy and rule of law should be compromised, so hopefully this will put that behind us,” he said. (The Washington Post)

Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, reportedly said that new and “dangerous developments” were taking place within the Security Council. A Palestinian-backed, Syrian-sponsored draft resolution demanding that Israel halt construction of its separation barrier might be introduced in the Council in the coming days, and an additional resolution, urging the parties to implement the Road Map, was in the works, Amb. Gillerman reportedly said during a conference call with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, stressing: “Those resolutions may in fact change the rules of the game.” (The Jerusalem Post)

9

According to media reports, a Palestinian suicide bomber walked up to a reception window in an office at an IDF base near Tulkarm, where Palestinians applied for permits to cross roadblocks, and detonated explosives. The explosion killed the attacker and wounded two IDF soldiers, one seriously, and a Palestinian, an IDF spokesman said. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to AFP and identified the bomber as Ahmed Safadi, an 18-year-old high school student from the village of Urif south of Nablus. The Jerusalem Post also reported that, the day before, Palestinians approaching an IDF checkpoint in Tulkarm had alerted troops to a suspicious bag nearby. IDF forces had checked the bag and found a 20kg explosive device and detonator inside. Security officials said on Israel Radio that the bomb was probably meant for an attack inside Israel in the coming days. The bomb was detonated in a controlled explosion, with no injuries caused. (AFP, AP, Independent Media Review Analysis (IMRA), The Jerusalem Post)

The PLC, amid arguments over the status and size of the newly appointed Palestinian cabinet, postponed the confirmation vote, tentatively rescheduling it for 11 October. Some legislators wanted the cabinet to remain an emergency one, expiring in a month, while others favoured confirming it with a vote to turn it into a regular Cabinet, according to PLC member Hanan Ashrawi. Many of the legislators objected to its small size. Later reports that Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia had handed in his resignation were officially denied. “There are serious differences, but it did not reach the point of resignation,” Palestinian Authority President’s aide Nabil Abu Rudeineh told reporters outside Mr. Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters. (AFP, AP)

Although Palestinian Authority President Arafat had been weakened by a bad case of flu, his condition was not life-threatening, his aides said after his appearance prompted related rumours. Nabil Abu Rudeineh told reporters that the President's health was good and that he was performing his daily activities and worked as usual. (Reuters, Xinhua)

Yaakov Levy, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva, wrote to the Chairwoman of the UN Commission on Human Rights demanding that a report on the food situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, prepared by Special Rapporteur Jean Ziegler, be “deemed unfit for presentation” to the Commission at its meeting the following spring. The move followed an interview with Mr. Ziegler on the French TV channel LCI in which he said he was a member of the board of directors of the Tel-Aviv-based Alternative Information Centre, which described itself as “a Palestinian-Israeli organization which disseminates information, research and political analysis ... while promoting cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis based on the values of social justice, solidarity and community involvement.” “Ziegler showed his true colours. He openly admitted for the first time to membership in a politically biased non-governmental organization,” Amb. Levy reportedly said in his letter. (AP)

According to the media, the PA Ministry of Health released a report saying that the tightened closure imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in Gaza, had caused a severe crisis of medical aid and a medicine shortage. Israel had closed down all passages, crossings and terminals on the Strip’s borders. For instance, moving medical aid from the Karni commercial crossing was hampered by many obstacles and IDF security measures had blocked the import of medicine from the West Bank as well as Arab and other foreign countries for more than a month. The Ministry urged the World Health Organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross and all other humanitarian organizations as soon as possible to convince Israel to allow medical aid into the Gaza Strip. Defence Minister Mofaz had ordered the closure to last at least through 22 October, or several days after the end of the Sukkot holiday, which was reportedly going against the recommendations of security officials who did not view the level of alerts about possible attacks as unusual. (AP, Xinhua)

Prime Minister Sharon’s Office announced that in the past month the Israel Security Agency (ISA, formerly General Security Service, or Shabak) and the Israel Police (Jerusalem District) had arrested three Palestinians from East Jerusalem, accusing them of being Hamas activists and involved in a series of bombing attacks inside Israel. The ISA said Nassim Za’atary, Majdi Za’atari and Abdullah Sharabati had been arrested shortly after the explosion in the Hillel coffee shop in West Jerusalem and were accused of organizing the suicide bombing on a No. 2 line bus in Jerusalem on 19 August 2003, in which 23 people had been killed and 120 wounded. (International Middle East Media Centre (IMEMC), www.pmo.gov.il)

Prime Minister Sharon reportedly called a special meeting with Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Industry and Trade Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom over EU demands that products manufactured in the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory be labelled as such. The rules of origin issue was to be discussed at the upcoming session of the Israel-EU Association Committee, a joint body with Israel and the EU scheduled to meet in November 2003 in Brussels. (Ha’aretz)

Israelis and Palestinians must start work on solving difficult issues to revive peace efforts in the region, the European Commission said. Difficult questions, such as refugees and territorial issues, should be tackled first rather than last, to help remove the obstacles on the path to peace, the Commission suggested in a statement to the European Parliament. In the absence of EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten, the comments were delivered by Competition Policy Commissioner Mario Monti. “We must re-create the political will to go through with the two-State solution,” said the Commission. Mr. Monti also warned Israel that construction of the separation barrier would cause “economic hardship to many Palestinians,” and continued: “Security is more than just stopping terrorists ... it begins with winning the hearts and minds of the population.” EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told the European Parliament: “There is no alternative to the Road Map … The Road Map is still valid ... this cannot be forgotten because of recent tragic events.” In a report to the European Parliament, Mr. Solana said there was a real danger the Israeli-Palestinian crisis could degenerate into a regional conflict after the recent Israeli air strike on Syria. “The seriousness of the situation cannot be disguised; it’s getting increasingly difficult… The Israeli Government has not only the right but the duty to take measures to protect its citizens against terrorism. But for this battle to be truly effective, it has to be consistent with international law,” Mr. Solana said, stressing that in a region as volatile as the Middle East, it was vital that States act to reduce tension, not to increase it. “Israel must ... put an end to its settlement policy, put an end to the building of a separation wall that invades territories far beyond the 1967 lines, put an end to the policy of selective assassinations and other measures contrary to international law,” he said. Several speakers in the parliamentary debate compared the separation barrier to the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. “From the Great Wall of China to the Berlin Wall, such barriers have always proved totally useless,” Socialist floor leader Enrique Baron said. German conservative Hans-Gert Pöttering, leader of the biggest political group in Parliament, declared: “If you build a wall, that will cause more hatred and more despair. To me, that is another reason why you need an international peace force to separate the two peoples.” Mr. Monti, speaking on behalf of the Commission, said talk of a peacekeeping force was unrealistic because Israel mistrusted international involvement. (AP, DPA, Reuters)

Ha’aretz quoted Israeli security sources as saying that there had been a discussion since the beginning of the week about expelling to the Gaza Strip some 25 Palestinians arrested by the IDF, most of them Islamic Jihad members from Jenin. The report said that also under consideration was the expulsion of other Palestinians, one of them the wife of a senior Hamas activist. The report noted that the debate on the subject was in the preliminary stages, and that after the legal aspects were considered it would be up to the head of the IDF Central Command to issue expulsion orders. The persons involved would be offered the opportunity to appeal the orders to a military appeals tribunal and possibly also to the High Court of Justice. (Ha’aretz, Xinhua)

The Sydney Peace Foundation prize was to be awarded to Hanan Ashrawi, PLC member and founder and Secretary-General of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH), “for her commitment to human rights, to the peace process in the Middle East and for her courage in speaking against oppression, against corruption and for justice.” The initial announcement was made in August, and New South Wales Prime Minister Bob Carr was to award the prize at the State Parliament in November 2003. The Foundation was a non-profit organization attached to the University of Sydney, and its prize of Aus$ 50,000 (US$ 34,500) was Australia’s major peace prize. Recipients of the prize included Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmão and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson. (AFP)

Oman exempted Palestinian goods and products from custom duties beginning retroactively on 14 September 2002. (Palestine Media Centre)

President Jacques Chirac of France, speaking in Morocco, said Palestinian Authority President Arafat remained a “partner who cannot be ignored on the path to peace in the Middle East” and urged the Palestinians to complete the setting up of a government “as quickly as possible.” Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin telephoned Mr. Arafat to urge him to “support the setting up of a government that can assume all its responsibilities as soon as possible,” and told him that “in a period of crisis across the Middle East … all parties [must] act to find a solution.” (AFP)

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said: “The formation of a Palestinian government, with full power over police and security forces, is not only among the hopes of Europe and of the Quartet, but constitutes the indispensable condition for launching the implementation of the Road Map, to which there is no alternative. My fervent hope is that it will be possible to accomplish this objective and that Abu Ala [PA Prime Minister-designate Ahmed Qureia] will effectively be able to dismantle terrorist groups and proceed to the fulfilling of Palestine’s other commitments.” (AFP, www.esteri.it)

King Abdullah II of Jordan reportedly described Washington’s foreign policy as naïve and lacking cultural sensitivity “despite the fact that President George Bush is committed to achieve peace in the Middle East.” In a speech during his official visit to Sweden, the King said: “There is a perception in the Middle East that the US is biased against the Arabs and the Palestinians,” and that Jordan was “working behind the scenes” to settle the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, adding that those efforts to achieve peace were being blocked by extremists on both sides. He also said that the escalation of violence meant that “the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are spending a lot of time exchanging accusations”, instead of working to enforce the agreed-upon peace between the two sides through the implementation of the Road Map. (Arabic News.com)

10

Eight Palestinians, including one woman and two children, aged 8 and 12, were reportedly killed and some 80 wounded during a massive Israeli raid in Rafah which began at midnight. Up to 100 armoured vehicles, backed by helicopter gunships, thrust deep into densely populated refugee areas in Rafah in the Gaza Strip on a mission named “Operation Root Canal” to destroy tunnels believed to be used for smuggling arms. A gun battle erupted between soldiers and Palestinians. The army positioned snipers on rooftops and fired a tank shell at an electricity transformer, plunging the camp into darkness. Most of the casualties were caused when a helicopter fired a missile at a crowd, according to witnesses. Dr. Ali Mousa, Director of Rafah’s Najar Hospital, said the hospital staff were overwhelmed by the large number of casualties. Many of the wounded required surgery, but he had only one operating room and not enough supplies. Patients could not be transferred to other hospitals because of Israeli travel restrictions. Israeli military officials said Palestinians were planning to smuggle anti-aircraft missiles and Katyusha rockets, which would have sufficient range to hit Israeli cities. Three smuggling tunnels had been uncovered near the border, the IDF said, but no mention was made of any weapons. An IDF spokesman said the army would stay in Rafah as long as necessary. Palestinian officials said 45 houses had been destroyed in the raid, while the army said it had destroyed five roofless structures along with the houses concealing the three tunnels its forces had uncovered. Israeli officers said the Gaza operation had met with stiff resistance and that, early on 11 October, Palestinian militants had retaliated with mortar fire against Jewish settlements in the “Gush Katif” block. During the day, Israel started withdrawing its troops from the area, removing most of them by the end of 12 October. After another mortar shell hit the “Morag” settlement on 13 October, IDF troops re-entered the camp, demolishing two houses and wounding a 15-year-old girl in the Yabena neighbourhood. (AFP, Albawaba.com, DPA, The Guardian, Ha’aretz, Reuters; see also 12 and 13 October below)

PA President Arafat condemned the raid, describing the killings as “war crimes.” His adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh said: “We strongly condemn these Israeli war crimes, which are causing a human tragedy. As a result of this aggression, we ask the international community, the Quartet and the UN Security Council to take immediate steps to stop the Israeli escalation against the Palestinian people, especially in Rafah.” (AFP)

The following is a statement issued by the spokesman for the Secretary-General on the IDF’s missile attack in Rafah:

(UN press release SG/SM/8933)

Prominent Palestinian and Israeli politicians were to meet in Jordan in an attempt to work out a compromise on outstanding issues and prove “there is an alternative to violence,” a senior Palestinian diplomat told DPA. He added: “Between 20 and 25 Palestinian figures have arrived in Amman and are due to meet prominent Israeli politicians, mainly from the Labour Party and the Peace Now Movement.” The Palestinian team included former PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, other ex-ministers and a number of intellectuals. “High on the agenda will be working out a common ground on key issues listed as permanent settlement questions, including the status of East Jerusalem, frontiers, Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlement,” according to the diplomat. He also said: “The meeting has the primary aim of finding a way out of the present impasse in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and proving that there is a chance for coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians and that the violence and bloodshed can be stopped.” (DPA)

UN Security Council held closed-door consultations on the issue of the barrier constructed by Israel in the West Bank. The open meeting was scheduled for 14 October. Dan Gillerman, Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN, said it was “pathetic to object to the building of a security fence the day after another suicide bombing killing 19 people.” Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN, said the barrier had “nothing to do with security ... It is an expansionist wall annexing de facto huge chunks of Palestinian territories … We have broad support and, I believe, an international consensus. We hope this resolution will not be blocked.” The draft resolution stresses the Council’s opposition to “settlement activities in the Occupied Territories and to any activities involving the confiscation of land, disruption of the livelihood of protected persons and de facto annexation of land.” The US said it opposed the resolution, with State Department spokesman Richard Boucher calling it “unbalanced.” (AFP)

A 15-year-old Palestinian boy, throwing stones at an Israeli tank in Jenin, was badly injured when the soldiers opened fire, Palestinian medics said, adding that his leg might have to be amputated. (AFP)

11

Russia’s former envoy to the Middle East, Andrei Vdovin, told reporters after talks with Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa in Cairo: “We are proposing that the Road Map be adopted by the Security Council as a binding resolution for all the parties.” Mr. Vdovin, on a regional tour to introduce his replacement, Alexander Kalugin, said there was general “acceptance and understanding of this proposal” among other members of the Quartet. The Russian Foreign Ministry also released a statement on the recent Israeli operation in Rafah, saying: “The use of disproportionate force, including armoured vehicles and aircraft, changed nothing but the number of victims among the civilian population.” (AFP, www.mid.ru; see also 7 October 2003)

Israeli President Moshe Katsav’s office received a Jewish New Year greeting card from Palestinian Authority President Arafat. The card, mailed two weeks earlier, said: “We’ve passed together through hard, painful years, and each one of us who cares about our children’s future yells: ‘Enough.’ Let’s not merely hope, let’s also take steps to open a new chapter in relations between the two peoples - relations without terror, without any sort of violence, killing, destruction of trees, and seeds of conquest. Let there be a new chapter of cooperative coexistence.” (Ha’aretz)

12

A Palestinian militant was shot dead overnight by Israeli soldiers near the “Morag” settlement in the southern Gaza Strip. Troops had opened fire in the early hours after spotting “three suspicious figures,” an Israeli military source said, adding: “We conducted a search in the morning, during which one terrorist was found with explosives near his body.” A statement by the armed wing of the PFLP identified the man as Samir Al-Bayouk, its leader in the Khan Yunis area. He had been planting a bomb near “Morag” when he became involved in a gun battle and “exchanged fire with the Israeli occupation forces for one hour,” the statement said. (AFP)

Some 50 Palestinian and Israeli political figures and intellectuals reportedly completed drafting an unofficial peace agreement during a meeting in Jordan. A ceremony had been held in Amman marking the event. Sponsored by Switzerland and known as “the Swiss Document”, “the Swiss Initiative,” or “Geneva Accord Initiative”, the protocol was expected to be signed in Geneva on 4 November, the eighth anniversary of Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination. AP reported that a 50-page document was the result of two years of talks between former Israeli and Palestinian negotiators and could be the basis for eventual official negotiations, although it had no formal standing. As part of the deal, Israel would withdraw from 98 per cent of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip, annexing about 20 of 150 Jewish settlements, negotiators said. The Palestinians would be compensated for the missing 2 per cent by receiving some land in Israel’s Negev Desert, mainly to widen Gaza. Jerusalem would be divided by an international border, with Jewish neighbourhoods going to Israel and Arab neighbourhoods becoming part of Palestine. The Old City would remain open to both sides. The Palestinians would control the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, while Israel would retain sovereignty over parts of the Western Wall, running alongside parts of the Muslim compound. Palestinian refugees would be mainly resettled in Palestine and in third countries, or be offered compensation. According to AP, the document made no reference to the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and property in Israel. Israel Radioquoted former PA Minister of Prisoners Affairs Hisham Abdel Razeq as saying that the draft did not waive the Palestinians’ right of return. MK Haim Oron (Meretz) said the draft included an acceptance by the Palestinians that Israel was a Jewish State and there could be no right of return. Meetings of the group had begun two years earlier in Geneva, at the initiative of Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo. Since then, the two sides had met dozens of times, abroad and at home. Palestinian Authority President Arafat had been briefed on the contacts and was aware of the details of the agreement, Palestinian officials said, while Israeli sources said the Prime Minister’s Office had been kept updated on the developments as well. The Palestinians were represented by Cabinet ministers, legislators and Fatah leaders. “The Palestinian Authority supports our initiative,” former PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said in Cairo after arriving there the following day with Yossi Beilin to discuss the plan with Egyptian officials, adding that the plan was also supported by “the group of Marwan Barghouti,” and would be announced in two weeks. Several countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Britain and Japan, had already shown interest in the effort, said Menachem Klein, an Israeli negotiator and adviser to Israel’s delegation at the 2000 Camp David peace talks. “Switzerland provided logistical and financial help,” Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey told journalists in Bern with the effort reaching its current “high point” in Amman. “It’s a risky investment,” she added. (AFP, AP, DPA, IMEMC, IMRA)

Governor of Rafah Majid Al-Ghal reportedly said: “We announce that Rafah is a city of disaster… They have destroyed the roads, the water supply, sewage, telephones, electricity.” UNRWA Director-General Peter Hansen said about 1,500 people had been left homeless as a result of the Israeli operation: “We have had very, very significant damage to the refugee camp. It would appear between 100 and 120 shelters/houses were completely destroyed or demolished ... If these initial estimates are correct, it will mean we will have some 1,500 persons added to the homeless roll in Rafah.” An AFP Israeli source said the figures were “definitely exaggerated” and that only “around 10 houses” under which the tunnels ran had been destroyed. Other houses could have been damaged when the tunnels collapsed, or by Palestinian fire: “During the intensive fighting, they fired literally dozens of anti-tank missiles,” said the source. “All of this weaponry had to hit something.” Mr. Al- Ghal denied that the aim of the IDF operation was merely to destroy the tunnels, saying: “They want a buffer zone near the border. The subject of tunnels is a false accusation and a lie. Why destroy trees, agricultural land?” (AFP)

“President Arafat has fully recovered from the flu and stomach ailments from which he had been suffering. The Egyptian medical team has departed after determining that Arafat’s health is all right,” Tayeb Abdul-Rahim, a senior aide to Mr. Arafat, said. (The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Prime Minister Qureia said in a brief statement to reporters, without elaborating: “The Government will work for 20 to 25 days and after that there will be a new government and a new Prime Minister also.” (AFP, Reuters)

European Commission President Romano Prodi held talks in Cairo with President Mubarak, telling reporters afterwards: “We shared deep pessimism on the evolution of the situation in the Middle East… We see the limits of our action at this moment because there is a Road Map, but there is no way to put it in practice and there is no will to start a concrete action. And because of the political situation in the area I do not think, at least in the short run, that there will be a change.” Mr. Prodi also criticized Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank, calling it “the wrong answer to the problem,” and said: “In my interpretation, any increase in the authority of the UN at this moment will help the peace process.” Ha’aretz quoted him as saying: “If there is not an initiative of the two protagonists - Israel and the Palestinian Authority - even an increase in the power of the United Nations will not sufficiently solve the problem. And we don’t see any substantial change in this case.” (AFP, Ha’aretz)

13

IDF forces reportedly arrested five wanted Palestinians in the village of Araba, west of Jenin, a wanted Islamic Jihad member in Nablus, a Hamas member and two wanted Palestinians in the Askar refugee camp. (www.idf.il)

Farouk Kaddoumi, Head of the Political Department of the PLO, told Malaysia’s official Bernama news agency, as he arrived for an Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in the country’s new administrative capital Putrajaya: “Pursuing the armed struggle is a must as it is the only solution in sight to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict … There is a difference between terrorism and trying to liberate occupied lands. As long as our lands are occupied, why are we accused of terrorism? The UN Charter states that we should fight by all means.” On Malaysia taking over the OIC chairmanship from Qatar, he said it augured well for the Palestinian cause as Kuala Lumpur had been a strong supporter against the occupation. (AFP, Bernama.com)

Palestinian Authority President Arafat reportedly appointed Hakam Balawi, a senior Fatah official and PA Cabinet Secretary-General, as Acting Interior Minister. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Prime Minister Qureia chaired the first meeting of his emergency cabinet in Ramallah. On the agenda were the issues of ministerial appointments and elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). After the meeting External Affairs Minister Nabil Sha’ath said the new emergency Palestinian Government would govern until the end of its 30-day term, and Prime Minister Qureia would use that time to discuss new cabinet appointments with Palestinian Authority President Arafat. Mr. Sha’ath said that at the end of its term the emergency Government could resign, to be replaced by a broader government which would be presented to the PLC for approval. (AFP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

Three Palestinian tunnels which Israel said it had closed to stop arms smuggling “did not reach Egypt and could have been closed from the Egyptian side for years,” an unnamed Egyptian border guard told AFP. He said Egypt and the PA had previously destroyed around 25 tunnels, some up to 250m long, to stop smuggling. (AFP)

UNRWA said in a statement: “The agency’s relief and social services office in Rafah camp is struggling to deal with demand for assistance from the newly homeless but has so far established that 1,240 individuals were made homeless” after the recent IDF raids into the Rafah refugee camp. (AFP, AP)

In remarks released on his web site, Hamas spokesman Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi said that Israeli actions in Rafah were completely backed by the US and Europe, and called on all Palestinian factions “to strike back the Zionists,” saying the enemy should not feel safe in Tel Aviv while Palestinian children were being massacred in Rafah. The Islamic Jihad also reiterated its call for a mobilization in a leaflet distributed in the Rafah refugee camp over two days, saying the recent attacks had “taught us a lesson that all the Palestinians should be prepared for any future incursions in order to be able to confront it.” (AFP)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher reportedly, when asked about the IDF operation to destroy tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip, told reporters: “These are old and useless allegations that [the Israelis] know very well are without foundation. We have already said in the past that Egypt is opposed to arms smuggling operations.” (AFP)

Amnesty International (AI) condemned Israeli raids in Rafah in a statement issued in London, saying: “The repeated practice by the Israeli army of deliberate and wanton destruction of homes and civilian property is a grave violation of international human rights and humanitarian law... and constitutes a war crime… Amnesty International calls on the Israeli authorities to put an immediate end to the practice of destroying Palestinian homes and other properties, and of using excessive, disproportionate and reckless force against unarmed Palestinians... which frequently results in the killing and injuring of unarmed civilians, including children.” (AFP, AI press release MDE 15/091/2003)

A report by the US, EU, UN, World Bank and other international donors criticized Israel’s separation barrier around East Jerusalem. The report said many Palestinian families and communities had already been separated from each other as a result of the construction of 22.5 km of the barrier so far, that “communities adjacent to Jerusalem are being cut off from the city, which they rely on for commerce, work and essential social services,” including schooling and medical facilities, and that the barrier would “separate children from their schools, women from modern obstetrics facilities, workers from their places of employment and communities from their cemeteries.” The report warned that the barrier “is creating dilemmas of access and legal status, and an appreciable degree of future population movement cannot be ruled out,” as “a degree” of displacement had already occurred. It called for “access points” or gates to permit the flow of goods and people through the barrier and said it would continue to provide aid to West Bank communities affected by the construction. (AFP)

A delegation of United States experts would be arriving in Israel in the near future to take a closer look at the route of the West Bank separation barrier, according to US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer. For instance, it would examine Israel’s argument that the routeing east of the “Beit Arye” settlement, which would close off a large Palestinian area, was designed to protect Ben-Gurion International Airport. (Ha’aretz)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, speaking to more than 800 business and political figures at the World Economic Forum’s East Asia summit, reportedly called for an international push to implement the Road Map, saying: “Real peace demands real trust. There must be prompt, visible action.” (DPA)

Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, expressed concern over delays in forming a stable Palestinian government, and Israel’s disproportionate use of military force. “We have too much tension in the region already. What we need is to lower the temperature, not to raise it,” he said on arrival at a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers. (AFP)

Acting on police recommendations, the Supreme Court of Israel reportedly barred the leader of the “Temple Mount Faithful” group and the head of another small ultra-nationalist organization from the presumed Temple Mount area in East Jerusalem, the compound featuring the al-Aqsa Mosque and other Islamic holy sites. The court rejected an appeal by Gershon Solomon and Yehuda Etzion to enter the compound after police warned that visits by either of them could lead to bloodshed at the specially protected Muslim holy site. (The Jerusalem Post)

Russia’s Middle East envoy Andrei Vdovin, speaking with reporters in Cairo after talks with Foreign Minister Maher, said it was “necessary to stop the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East”, adding that there were “several Russian ideas to help in that.” Russia could propose “a new international conference to discuss a comprehensive solution in the Middle East that would cover the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese tracks” of negotiations with Israel, he said. Mr. Vdovin repeated Moscow’s proposal that the Road Map be adopted by the UN Security Council as a resolution to make it legally binding for both sides, and added that it was also necessary to decide on a “strong mechanism for applying the Road Map,” according to a formula putting the Quartet behind the peace plan, which would be accepted by all parties. (AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Arafat told reporters with regard to the Geneva Accord Initiative, announced the day before: “It’s not an official agreement. It’s activists from both sides – Israelis and Palestinians with international participation… I support any effort, including by these Israeli groups in favour of the peace of the brave.” Head of the Political Department of the PLO Farouk Kaddoumi told a news conference at the OIC summit in Malaysia that he had not heard of the accord, adding: “I don’t think this has to do with the [Palestinian] National Authority. This is a side negotiation in order to have more support from the Israelis who care about peace and this is from the opposition and not from the Government of Israel.” (AFP)

An Israeli settler family, parents and two daughters from “Kiryat Arba” settlement near Hebron, reportedly entered Kalandia Refugee Camp near Ramallah by mistake. Eyewitnesses reported that after they drove into the camp children started throwing stones at the car, but some youths stopped them and took the family out of the camp. According to The Jerusalem Post,Fatah members from the camp alerted Israeli troops at the Kalandia roadblock at the refugee camp’s southern tip. Soldiers, fearing an ambush, arrived at the camp only after an hour and escorted the family out. (IMEMC, The Jerusalem Post)

14

Overnight, a Palestinian near the “Negohot” settlement, south-west of Hebron, was reportedly shot dead by an Israeli soldier who had opened fire at a “suspicious shadow” which continued to approach the settlement even though warning shots had been fired. Israel Army Radio said that no arms had been discovered near the body. (AFP)

Israeli troops and tanks moved into the Rafah refugee camp before dawn, heading for a different section of the camp from the one targeted earlier, in what the IDF described as a resumption of its search for tunnels used to smuggle weapons from Egypt. Israeli soldiers exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen. Hospital sources said Israeli forces had wounded at least three Palestinians, with other sources adding that at least two of them had been unarmed. IDF bulldozers razed four homes, while troops took over several buildings and set up sniper positions on three rooftops. A senior IDF officer in the Gaza Strip told Israel Army Radiothat this new stage of the operation - officially referred to as “Root Canal 2” - could last several days. The officer added that there were 12 tunnels known to be in operation. Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Arafat, accused Israel of “committing further military adventures that will be useless and will only bring further deterioration to the security of the Israeli people.” (AFP, Ha’aretz, Palestine Media Centre)

Palestinians had set a target date of June 2004 for elections, a Cabinet minister told AP. Elections had been scheduled for January but were postponed because of Israeli travel restrictions in the West Bank. (AP)

The IDF arrested a 20-year-old Palestinian woman from Al-Izzariyya village near Jerusalem, saying she had hidden a gun and a knife in a baby carriage. The IDF said the woman had been apprehended by the Israeli Border Police at the Hizma Crossing in Jerusalem. (imemc.org, www.idf.il)

Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, the Israeli commander of the “central region”, which in practice includes the West Bank, signed the expulsion order for “15 administrative detainees implicated in terrorist activities,” reportedly including eight Hamas and five Islamic Jihad members. An IDF statement entitled “The Issuing of Assigned Residence Orders to 15 Administrative Detainees” said the action had been taken "in accordance with the authority granted to the military commander by both international and local law” and only “against operatives that cannot be charged due to limitations of revealing intelligence sources.” The prisoners had been transferred from West Bank prisons to the Erez detention facility in the Gaza Strip “until completion of the judicial process” and given 48 hours to appeal the move. None of the Palestinians involved had “blood on their hands,” the IDF said. “Israel is committing flagrant acts of aggression to sabotage peace efforts,” Prime Minister Qureia told reporters in Ramallah, when asked about the decision. PA Minister for Negotiations Affairs Saeb Erakat also denounced the decision as a breach of the Geneva Convention, saying: “It’s a very dangerous step ... This is not an act of self-defence. This is an act that deserves the condemnation of the United States, the European Union and other members of the international community.” (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters, www.idl.il)

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said during a briefing that China would dispatch a special envoy to the Middle East to discuss the peace process in the region. Wang Shijie would be in the region from 18 October, visiting Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “We hope that, through the joint efforts of China and other countries, we will be able to relax the tensions there,” the spokesman said, adding that a specific schedule was still under discussion. (AFP)

Seventy Palestinian farmers from Jayyus village near Qalqilya were held west of the separation barrier for the ninth executive day without being allowed to return to their homes. Nine days earlier, farmers had been allowed to move from their village into their fields west of the wall through an army controlled gate. According to villagers, since then, the IDF had denied them access to return to their homes. Sharif Omar, one of the villagers, told reporters that only on 11 October had the Red Cross managed to pass food to the besieged villagers. (imemc.org)

IDF troops reportedly arrested three Palestinians in Rafah and destroyed two houses, one of which was reportedly being used by a gunman who had fired on troops in the area. The IDF also arrested eight Palestinians suspected of militant activity, among them Bakr Bilal, a Hamas commander in Nablus, suspected of involvement in two attacks near “Ariel.” He was seized in the Rafidiya neighbourhood. (Ha’aretz)

At the request of the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic (UN document S/2003/973), the Security Council met to consider agenda item “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.” The UN Security Council considered the item in an open debate, during which 44 delegations spoke. At the conclusion of the debate, the Council voted on a draft resolution submitted by Guinea, Malaysia, Pakistan and Syria. The draft received 10 votes in favour and 1 against, with 4 abstentions, and was not adopted owing to the negative vote of a permanent member of the Council (United States). (UN press releases SC/7895 and SC/7896, UN News Centre)

The US veto in the Security Council drew criticism from the Palestinian Authority, which said that gave a “green light” to continue construction of the separation barrier. PA Negotiations Affairs Minister Saeb Erakat said: “The Israeli behaviour, with the construction of the wall and the settlements, the incursions … deserve condemnation and not encouragement from the United States.” (AFP)

Russia expressed disappointment over a US decision to veto a UN resolution condemning Israel’s construction of a security barrier in the West Bank. Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in a statement: “Moscow regrets that the UN Security Council was unable adequately to respond to the dangerous developments in the Middle East. Most Council members, including Russia, supported the resolution. But it was not approved because the United States used its veto.” (AFP, www.ln.mid.ru)

15

A PFLP member was reportedly shot dead by Israeli troops as he fled from a checkpoint. Palestinian sources said Bilal Zeidan, 23, had been killed in Ramin, six km east of Tulkarm. (AFP)

A massive explosion, reportedly set off by remote control, ripped apart a United States diplomatic vehicle in a convoy carrying US officials observing the implementation of the Road Map. The blast went off around 10.15 a.m. as a three-car convoy with a Palestinian police escort drove near a gas station at the outskirts of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, on the way to the Beit Hanoun area near the Erez border crossing. Israeli officials said three security guards attached to the US diplomatic contingent had been killed and a diplomat wounded in the blast. There was no immediate claim of responsibility; Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and the PLFP denied any involvement. Israeli forces backed by tanks and combat helicopters staged an incursion into northern Gaza after the attack, moving some 1.5 km into the area. (AFP, AP, Middle East Online, Reuters)

The United States condemned the bombing of its diplomatic convoy in the Gaza Strip, with President Bush saying in a statement: “I condemn in the strongest terms the vicious act of terrorism. Palestinian authorities should have acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms.” Secretary of State Colin Powell echoed Mr. Bush’s sentiment and said he was “outraged” by the attack. “We cannot move forward to a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without eliminating violence and terrorism, Mr. Powell said he had told PA Prime Minister Qureia in a telephone call. (AFP, www.whitehouse,gov.news)

PA President Arafat strongly condemned the attack on the United States convoy, offering his condolences to President Bush, and ordered that a committee be formed to probe into the attack. “I strongly condemn this crime which targeted American observers who came on a mission of peace and security,” he said. Prime Minister Qureia told reporters: “We express our profound regret and our anger after this incident, which we condemn and denounce.” Negotiations Minister Saeb Erakat said the attack was “against the interests of the Palestinian people and the Road Map,” as the victims had been overseeing its implementation. (AFP, Reuters)

The following is a statement released by the spokesman for the Secretary-General on the attack in Gaza:

(UN press release SG/SM/8942)

IDF troops in Tulkarm arrested four peace activists, one American and three British. The identities of the four were not immediately known. (Ha’aretz)

The large-scale IDF operation begun in the previous days continued in the Rafah refugee camp in Rafah. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF added three West Bank Palestinians to its list of prisoners to be expelled to the Gaza Strip for alleged militant activity, bringing the number to 18, according to an army spokesman. The spokesman said all Palestinian prisoners slated for expulsion to Gaza were militants being held without trial or charge as suspected accomplices in attacks on Israelis since the start of the intifada. Prime Minister Qureia called the expulsions “a flagrant obstruction of any effort to restore calm,” under the Road Map. (Reuters)

The popularity of Palestinian Authority President Arafat was at its highest level in five years, while Palestinian trust in the United States remained low, a new Palestinian public opinion poll found. The poll was conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) between 7 and 14 October. Mr. Arafat’s popularity had jumped from 35 per cent in June to a current level of 50 per cent. PSR Director Khalil Shikaki attributed the rise to the recent Israeli threats against the Palestinian leader. The poll had involved a random sample of 1,318 adults in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and had a 3 per cent margin of error. (DPA)

EU Commissioner Chris Patten criticized Israel for building a security barrier on Palestinian land, saying he had seen satellite pictures showing that 45 per cent of Palestinian water resources and 40 per cent of farmland would be on the Israeli side of the wall, and 30 per cent of Palestinians would have to live in enclaves on the Israeli side. He told journalists: “What sort of Palestinian State do Mr. Sharon and his Government have in mind? I think it’s a point the international community has to address, directly to Mr. Sharon and the Israeli Government.” He added that nobody doubted that the Palestinian authorities should be far more vigorous in dealing with “those who are responsible for unpardonable acts of terrorist violence. But how does it help to continue with this wall? It’s not a wall that’s along Israel’s ‘67 border … It’s a wall which digs deep into Palestinian territory.” After meeting with UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen, Mr. Patten said there was a clear link between poverty and violence in the region. “I’m not seeking in any way to justify acts of terrorist violence, but you have to occasionally ask yourselves about the relationships … between dreadful economic and humanitarian problems and violence.” (Reuters)

Speaking on the sidelines of the OIC meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said the United States veto on the recent Security Council draft resolution condemning Israel’s construction of the separation barrier highlighted the need for reform of the world body. He said: “We are seeking justice and fairness. I think we cannot fight the big Powers, but we must make our views known in order to see justice done in Palestine … There is a Road Map and we must be serious in wanting to see the success of that Road Map.” (AFP)

16

IDF forces backed by 50 armoured vehicles reportedly carried out a raid in Rafah before dawn, shooting dead one Palestinian and wounding 14 others, including two 12-year-old boys, who were said to be in serious condition. An IDF spokesman said that troops had opened fire on a group of Palestinians who had broken a curfew, but he was not aware of anyone being killed. Walid Abdul al-Wahid, 30, a member of the Palestinian security services, had died after being hit in the chest by a bullet, according to Rafah hospital chief Dr. Ali Mussa. (AFP, AP, DPA)

The IDF reportedly lifted restrictions on Palestinian traffic in the Gaza Strip, removing two of three checkpoints that had been in place since the eve of Yom Kippur on 5 October. The Netzarim Road, closed after the suicide bombing in Jerusalem in September, remained closed. (Ha’aretz)

Shaedi Saqer, 19, shot in the chest by Israeli troops operating in the Yabena area of the Rafah refugee camp on 10 October, died in hospital of his injuries. His death brought to nine the number of Palestinians killed after the IDF’s initial two-day raid into Rafah the previous week. Another 80 Palestinians had been wounded and hundreds of Palestinians left homeless. (AFP)

Palestinians reportedly set fire to Joseph’s tomb, a holy place in the West Bank, hours after a group of Jewish settlers had held holiday prayers there, under IDF escort. Witnesses said Palestinian youths threw burning tires into the tomb after the group had left. The blaze tore a large hole through the domed roof of the three-room shrine, which had been empty at the time. (Reuters)

PA President Arafat’s security adviser Jibril Rajoub told reporters that the Palestinian National Security Council had decided to form a centralized command for all Palestinian Authority security services in the Gaza Strip, to be headed by Abdel-Razeq al-Majayda. Ghazi al-Jabali would be chief of police in Gaza and the West Bank. Decisions had been taken during a meeting chaired a day earlier by Mr. Arafat and Prime Minister Qureia. The Council would also formulate a working plan for security to protect and pursue Palestinian national goals, while working towards ending Israeli attacks against Palestinians. (DPA)

Palestinian police detained four suspected militants in connection with the bomb attack on a United States diplomatic convoy in the Gaza Strip. Security sources said three of the men belonged to the Popular Resistance Committees, a group of local armed militias formed at the end of 2000 that consisted mostly of Fatah breakaways or former members of the security forces. Other factions, including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, were also represented. The group had claimed responsibility for previous roadside bombings against Israeli forces, but denied any role in the US convoy bombing. The United States was sending an FBI team to the region and made clear that Washington would play a key role in the inquiry. All American citizens were advised to leave the area. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Palestinian Authority Minister for Foreign Affairs Nabil Sha’ath and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres attended an event sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Oregon. Mr. Sha’ath said on the bombing of the United States diplomatic convoy: “We are seeking American support rather than trying to get Americans out. This has been a crime of major proportions.” He also said the American security guards who had been killed had been travelling with diplomats headed to Gaza to interview Fulbright candidates who could not travel to Tel Aviv to apply for travel visas. Mr. Peres said terrorist organizations had derailed the peace process and that PA President Arafat and the Palestinian Authority should have done more to control those groups. (AP)

Foreign Minister Shalom reportedly revived the Israeli threat to expel Palestinian Authority President Arafat following the attack on a United States diplomatic convoy. “The Palestinians, and Arafat at their head, continue to encourage terrorist attacks, and I believe that, at the end of the day, the Americans realize that as along as Arafat remains in the region, it will not be possible to see there emerge another, moderate Palestinian leadership prepared for dialogue with Israel,” Mr. Shalom told Israeli Public Radio. (AFP)

The two-day summit of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) leaders, representing 57 Muslim nations comprising approximately 1.3 billion people, opened in Putrajaya, Malaysia. It expressed their focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the restoration of stability in Iraq. At the opening of the summit, Muslim leaders expressed their support for Palestinian Authority President Arafat and the Palestinian struggle. (AFP, www.bernama.com)

17

The IDF reportedly arrested eight “wanted” Palestinians in the West Bank. (Ha’aretz)

Palestinian security forces reportedly detained eight suspects allegedly members of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Jabaliya refugee camp, in connection with the bombing of the United States diplomatic convoy. Witnesses said that when the Palestinian police came to Block 8 of the camp to make arrests, a gunfight erupted. Seven members of the PA security forces were injured. (AP, Ha’aretz)

An FBI team met with Palestinian security officials as part of a joint investigation into the bombing of the United States diplomatic convoy. The team met with Palestinian police commanders at an Israeli checkpoint near the border. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Prime Minister Sharon ruled out expelling Palestinian Authority President Arafat, saying that such a move would “not be good for Israel.” In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, he said: “Our calculations for years have been that expelling him would not be good for Israel. The likelihood of expelling him without harming him is low, not only because of his security guards, but because he would be surrounded by a human chain of Israelis. The opinion of our intelligence services is that expelling him would not be a good idea.” (AFP, Reuters)

The Council of the European Union issued Presidency Conclusions after a two-day meeting in Brussels, reaffirming the Council’s commitment to the clear objective of two States, Israel and a viable and democratic Palestinian State. It called on Israel and the PA to live up to the commitments they had undertaken at the Aqaba summit, and welcomed initiatives of civil society on both sides. It strongly condemned the intensification of suicide attacks and other acts of violence in the past four weeks, and urged the Palestinian Authority and its President to take immediate steps to consolidate all Palestinian security services under the control of a duly empowered Prime Minister and Interior Minister. The Council also urged Israel to exert maximum effort to avoid casualties and abstain from extrajudicial killings. It furthermore expressed concern over the route marked out for the separation barrier in the West Bank, which could make the two-State solution physically impossible and cause further humanitarian and economic hardship to the Palestinians. It called on Israel to reverse its settlement policy and dismantle settlements built after March 2001. (www.ue.eu.int/news)

18

Three Palestinians were reportedly killed in southern Gaza by Israeli tank fire as the IDF continued its operations in Rafah that had been going on for most of the week. Nine Palestinians were wounded, three of them seriously. The dead included a 45-year-old member of Hamas and a 33-year-old woman. (AFP)

A 17-year-old Palestinian was killed by IDF gunfire in Tulkarm, according to Palestinian medics. Yehiya Rihan was hit by bullets to his chest and neck as he was throwing stones at soldiers with other youths in the centre of Tulkarm. Five other Palestinians were wounded. Israeli military sources said that soldiers returned fire after they had been shot at and Molotov cocktails had been hurled in their direction. (AFP)

Washington announced it had suspended all official travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territory following the bomb attack on the United States diplomatic convoy. “There are no embassy travels to Gaza. This applies also for all US Government travel,” said embassy public affairs officer Paul Patin. “Exceptions could be made on a case-by-case basis,” he added. (AFP)

19

A Palestinian teenager was reportedly crushed to death when a wall in his partially destroyed home in the Rafah refugee camp collapsed after coming under heavy fire from Israeli troops. Dr. Ali Mussa, head of Shifa Hospital, identified the victim as 14-year-old Shaedi Abu Olwan. His two brothers, both in their 20s, were also badly injured when the wall collapsed. They had returned to their partially damaged home to try to salvage some of their belongings when a burst of machine-gun fire came from one of the tanks stationed near the border. Some 10 buildings had been bulldozed by the army overnight. (AFP)

An IDF foot patrol was reportedly attacked in the village of Ein Yabrud, near Ramallah. Three soldiers were killed, and another was seriously wounded. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for the shootings. Ein Yabrud was placed under curfew with troops making house-to-house searches while the army was on the outskirts of Ramallah tightening the siege of the town, seeking the gunmen. Also placed under curfew were the neighbouring villages of Salwad, Dura, and Bithin. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Eight Qassam rockets were reportedly fired from the Gaza Strip, landing in the town of Sderot without causing casualties. (AFP)

Israeli security forces arrested five Palestinians, including Hamas and Fatah activists. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF was reportedly deploying thousands of reservists to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. According to Israeli media, five reserve battalions, each composed of at least 500 troops, had been called up on the orders of Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, despite the misgivings of Chief of Staff Gen. Moshe Yaalon. Israel Army Radiosaid the five battalions would be mobilized for three weeks to replace regular army units which were due to undergo training. (AFP)

20

Israeli helicopters reportedly launched five separate air strikes in the Gaza Strip, killing 14 and wounding over 135 other Palestinians. According to Palestinian hospital officials and witnesses, most of the casualties were women, children, and other bystanders. The attacks began early in the morning and continued on and off for about 15 hours. Helicopters attacked a structure on the north-eastern outskirts of the city. The missiles destroyed what the military called a Hamas rocket factory. In another attack, the helicopters launched two missiles at a car in Gaza City, killing three persons and wounding 10, Palestinian medics said. Sources in the Israeli military said that Palestinians had been spotted loading the truck with weaponry from the building hit in the initial attack. Two of the dead, Khaled al Masri and Iyad Fayez Al-Hilu, were Hamas members. The demolished house belonged to the Mushtaha family, some of whom were Islamic Jihad members. Four injured Palestinians died over the next few days. (AP, Albawaba.com, Ha’aretz, The Washington Post)

Two Palestinians were shot dead in the evening as they tried to cross from the Gaza Strip to Israel, Palestinian and Israeli sources said. (AFP)

The Palestinian Authority condemned the Israeli military operation, saying that it would only serve to perpetuate the cycle of violence. Prime Minister Qureia said: “These Israeli acts do not help ceasefire talks, they discourage them. Unfortunately, this is part of the permanent Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. We want the Israeli Government to sit down with us and negotiate a ceasefire.” Negotiations Minister Saeb Erakat said the Palestinian Authority “vigorously condemns this grave Israeli escalation in a densely populated area in the Al-Shajaiya neighbourhood in Gaza. It is not assassinations, the building of walls and settlements which will break the cycle of violence, but rather the peace process and negotiations.” (AFP, Albawaba.com, Reuters)

Prime Minister Qureia pledged to hold presidential and legislative elections in June 2004. “We are working to finalize all our preparations, including the new election law, so we can hold our elections in June. The Cabinet has also decided to allocate funds for elections in next year’s budget.” (Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon reportedly opened the winter session of the Knesset with a speech criticizing the Geneva Initiative. He said that, based on “intelligence” assessments, he expected a diplomatic breakthrough in the peace process, and told the opposition there was no cause for disagreement on key issues. But Labour leader Shimon Peres said the Government “has the right to negotiate formal agreements … but you don’t control our thoughts, our speech, our contacts and our desire for peace … You have the right to formal negotiations. The right to talk, to research, to propose models - this is every citizen’s right and don’t call them inciters for it.” Mr. Sharon said: “Every Palestinian deviation from the Road Map is a boost for terrorist organizations. It is no wonder that they are trying to evade its implementation, there are those in Israel who are also ready to deviate from this plan through all kinds of other schemes … The Israeli military will continue to act to foil terror attacks, capture murderers and liquidate terror organizations.” (AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon reportedly said Israel was determined to “remove” PA President Arafat. “This man is the biggest obstacle to peace and therefore Israel is determined to bring about his removal from the political arena,” he was quoted as saying. (Reuters)

The United States Administration informed the Israeli Government that special envoy John Wolf would not be returning to the region for the time being. An Administration spokesperson said the United States would only decide if and when to send Mr. Wolf back to Jerusalem once the future of the Palestinian Government led by Mr. Ahmed Qureia became clear. (Ha’aretz)

In its second annual world press freedom ranking, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accused Israel of unacceptable behaviour towards journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. An RSF spokesperson said that the IDF was guilty of injuring and threatening journalists in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “The Israeli army’s repeated abuse of journalists in the occupied territories … constitutes unacceptable behaviour.” Based on a total of 164 countries, Israel ranked 44th for its respect for freedom of expression at home and 146th for its behaviour beyond its borders. (AFP, Reuters)

At the request of the Arab Group at the United Nations, the General Assembly resumed its tenth emergency special session to discuss “Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”. (UN press release GA/10177)

21

A Palestinian man, injured during an Israeli raid in Ramallah, died later in the day, according to hospital officials. Ramzi Jardat, 23, was struck in the head when Israeli soldiers taking part in an incursion into the centre of Ramallah and Al-Bireh opened fire in the direction of young demonstrators. At least 17 were wounded, two critically. (AFP, Albawaba.com)

Israeli troops shot and wounded 12-year-old Ahmed Mustafa Al-Tirawe from the Balata refugee camp, the WAFA news agency reported. (Albawaba.com)

Palestinians reportedly fired two Qassam rockets at Sderot, and another at Netivot in the western Negev Desert. Four mortar shells were also fired at a settlement in the Gaza Strip. There were no casualties. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF reportedly closed the Karni and Erez checkpoints between Israel and the Gaza Strip. IDF troops also surrounded the Abd al-Nasser mosque in central Ramallah. A curfew was imposed on the city. (Ha’aretz)

Palestinian Authority President Arafat said world leaders, including the Quartet, should “immediately intervene to stop this military madness in which they aim to destroy the Holy Land and its steadfast people.” Prime Minister Qureia called for international intervention, referring to the air strikes as “ugly crimes.” Mr. Qureia said that the US was not intervening, believing that this was a “dangerous indication of the US Government’s intention to abandon” its role in peace efforts. (AP, Reuters)

Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa reportedly said there was an open war against the Palestinian people and that talking about peace at the moment was useless, the Middle East News Agency reported. “There is now a clear declared state of war against the Palestinian people and it is neither suitable nor useful to deceive ourselves and talk today about peace,” he said. (Reuters)

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast briefed the Security Council on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.” (UN press release SC/7902)

A two-day United Nations International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East entitled “Towards a Two-State Solution,” organized by the Department of Public Information of the United Nations Secretariat in cooperation with the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation, opened in Seville, Spain. A message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan was read out by United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Public Information Shashi Tharoor. (UN press releases SG/SM/8953, PAL/1963, PI/1515)

The tenth emergency session of the General Assembly adopted resolution ES-10/13, entitled “Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory” by a vote of 144 in favour to 4 against (Israel, US, Marshall Islands, Micronesia), with 12 abstentions, demanding “that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, which is in departure of the Armistice Line of 1949 ...” It requested “the Secretary-General to report on compliance with the present resolution periodically, with the first report on compliance ... to be submitted within one month and upon receipt of which further actions should be considered, if necessary, within the United Nations system”. The draft resolution had been introduced by Italy, on behalf of the European Union. (UN press release GA/10179)

22

Two Palestinians were reportedly shot dead by Israeli troops, one in Hebron and another in Qalqilya, as each tried to escape after being told to stop for identity checks. Israel Radio identified the man in Hebron as Abdel Hadi Natshe, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The other was Ahmed Kameis Atteia, 29, a commander of the PFLP’s military wing in Qalqilya. Also in Hebron, troops destroyed the house of a Palestinian suspected of sending suicide bombers into Israel. Troops arrested 18 other Palestinians during the two raids. (AFP, Albawaba.com, AP)

According to the media, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian in Hebron after he had shot and wounded two settlers in Tel Rumeida, a Jewish enclave in the city. (DPA, Reuters)

According to a media report, a Palestinian man who had been seriously wounded during the Israeli air raid in the Nusseirat refugee camp on 20 October died from his injuries. Ayman al-Malik, 20, had been seriously wounded when an Israeli helicopter fired a missile at a car in the camp. (AFP)

The Palestinian Authority considered the General Assembly resolution calling on Israel to stop building its separation wall in the West Bank “a great victory for the peace process,” according to the media. Negotiations Affairs Minister Saeb Erakat said: “We favourably welcome the General Assembly resolution. This is a very important resolution, politically, juridically and morally.” He also characterized the resolution as a great victory “for international legitimacy, wisdom and [means] a complete rejection of the arrogance of might.” (AFP)

Prime Minister Qureia reportedly held talks with US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns at Cairo airport. Mr. Qureia had arrived in Cairo a day earlier to “consult with Egyptian leaders about the dangerous situation in the Palestinian territories,” according to a Palestinian official. Mr. Burns was on his way to Sharm el-Sheikh to prepare for talks between President Hosni Mubarak and Secretary of State Colin Powell. On his meeting with Mr. Burns, Mr. Qureia said: “We exchanged views on a whole range of issues and the suffering of our people,” adding that those included Israel’s building of a separation wall, settlements, Jerusalem, an end to aggression, and the removal of barriers. He said Mr. Burns had listened to the Palestinian point of view and promised to convey it to Mr. Powell and the United States Administration. (AFP, DPA)

Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Egypt for talks with President Mubarak, which were expected to cover the surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence, the Sudan and other regional issues. Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said Egypt was eager to hear how the United States would help revive the Road Map. “We are interested in listening to him about future steps by the United States, as it is part of the international Quartet which proposed the Road Map and … seeing how they imagine they can overcome the current tragic situation,” Mr. Maher said. Mr. Powell and President Mubarak agreed to continue pushing for a Palestinian Government empowered to fight terrorism, according to a US official. “They had a thorough discussion of Israeli-Palestinian issues. Both the United States and Egypt will continue efforts towards the formation of a Palestinian Government empowered to take action against terrorism and to move forward on the Road Map.” US Middle East envoy William Burns, US Ambassador to Egypt David Welch, and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher also attended the meeting. (AFP, Reuters)

Israel was going to proceed with building the separation barrier despite a UN resolution demanding it halt construction, according to Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert. “The security fence will continue to be built. We do not take into account the automatic UN majority which is systematically hostile towards us. The whole world is against us and the United States, and I am proud to be on the side of the Americans.” (AFP)

Israeli Public Security Minister Tsahi Hanegbi went to the Al-Haram Al-Sharif in East Jerusalem, angering the Muslim clerics who described the visit as a provocation. Accompanied by Deputy Public Security Minister Michael Ratzon and senior police officers, Mr. Hanegbi spent 30 minutes at the site. A statement said they were inspecting police preparations for a festival marking Ramadan. Sheikh Hussein al-Khatib, Director of the Waqf (Islamic religious trust), said Mr. Hanegbi had entered the compound without the Waqf’s approval. “This is a provocative visit and an attempt to take over our responsibilities,” he said. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

In a joint press conference with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, President Bush renewed his support for creating a Palestinian State, disagreeing with charges from a reporter that Washington was biased in favour of Israel. “I’m the first [US] President to ever articulate such a vision, and I still believe it is possible. In order to achieve a Palestinian State, living side by side in peace, there needs to be leadership willing to fight off the terror that is trying to prevent the State from emerging.” (AFP)

China’s special envoy to the Middle East, Wang Shijie, said his Government would use its good ties with Israel to promote peace in the Middle East. “The relations that China enjoys with Israel are not to the detriment of its ties with Arab countries,” Mr. Wang told journalists after his meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa in Cairo. “China is taking advantage of these relations to discuss with Israel important questions for the Arabs, which will help attain coexistence and peace in the region.” (AFP)

In a meeting with Foreign Minister Shalom, Germany’s Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer reportedly expressed strong misgivings about the Israeli separation barrier. In an interview published by the Süddeutsche Zeitung,Mr. Shalom said “Germany is a good friend” of Israel, but conceded differences between the two sides on the Middle East conflict. He cited Germany’s view that contacts must be upheld with Palestinian Authority President Arafat, a view Israel completely disagreed with. With regard to all other matters, he said: “We have seen that Germany has developed a balanced position regarding the Mideast conflict.” A spokesman for Mr. Fischer reiterated the German position: “The implementation of the Road Map is without an alternative.” (DPA, Deutsche Welle)

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin held talks in Paris with Yasser Abed Rabbo and Yossi Beilin, two of the principal drafters of the Geneva Initiative. Commenting after the meeting, Mr. de Villepin said he did not think the plan “could contradict the Road Map in any way; to the contrary, it’s complementary.” He added: “This initiative is welcome. It’s important to escape from this spiral of violence and terrorism. From this point of view, this is an entirely important agreement.” (AFP)

Prime Minister Sharon reportedly said the Geneva Initiative was more dangerous than the Oslo Accords, Israel Army Radio reported. (AFP)

23

According to a media report, a Palestinian was shot dead after he had shot and slightly wounded three Israelis driving from “Kissufim” towards the “Gush Katif” settlement in Gaza. The Israelis were hurt by flying glass. The dead man was identified as Bilal Abu Hamudeh, 22, a member of the Islamic Jihad. (AFP)

According to the media, Israeli undercover troops arrested Osama Barham, 40, an Islamic Jihad leader, as he sat in a shop in Ramallah. Mr. Barham had been accused by Israel of numerous attacks. (AFP, The Washington Post)

The IDF was ready to “remove” Palestinian Authority President Arafat if the Government gave the order to do so, according to a military source: “The Government has to make a decision to allow the army to act. The army is ready.” (Reuters, The Washington Post)

Israel issued building tenders for more than 300 new apartments in two settlements in the West Bank. A Housing and Construction Ministry official said the tenders had been issued for 143 [153 according to Albawaba.com] new apartments in the “Karnei Shomron” settlement, near Nablus, and 180 in “Givat Zeev,” near East Jerusalem. Peace Now said the Government had published 1,627 tenders for new homes in the settlements since the beginning of the year. A senior Israeli official said: “All legal tenders within existing communities are not included in the Road Map according to our interpretation and our understanding.” (Albawaba.com, Reuters, The Washington Post)

King Abdullah II of Jordan met with Prime Minister Qureia to discuss the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the United States role in implementing the Road Map, a court official said, according to the media. “King Abdullah asked Mr. Qureia to present him with Palestinian ideas that he will submit to President Bush when they meet in two months” to help implement the Road Map. The King told Mr. Qureia that he was in “permanent contact with the US Administration to unblock the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.” He also insisted that the “issue of security is essential and must be resolved so that the Palestinian Government can fulfil its mission.” (AFP)

Israeli and Palestinian political figures promoting the Geneva Accord Initiative met in Geneva with Swiss facilitators. Yasser Abed Rabbo and Yossi Beilin met to discuss the next steps for the plan, according to Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesperson Simon Hubacher, who also said that it was an “informal meeting” which focused on “technical issues.” Diplomats from the European Union, Japan and Norway were also present. Mr. Hubacher could not confirm the date for the signing of the Accord, saying the two sides were working on the details and the ceremony was likely to be public. Israeli backers failed to win a clear endorsement for it from President Moshe Katzav, while Prime Minister Sharon rejected it. Palestinian Authority President Arafat said he supported all efforts to reach a peace agreement. (AFP)

According to an opinion poll released by Bir Zeit University, 85 per cent of Palestinians were satisfied with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s performance. The survey found 63 per cent of respondents “positively view the performance of Yasser Arafat,” while 24 per cent described it as “satisfactory” and only 10 per cent made a negative assessment. “Positive evaluation of the performance of Yasser Arafat has increased from 52 per cent in February 2002,” the pollsters said. The Fatah movement had the backing of only 29 per cent of respondents. The survey was conducted among a sample of 1,200 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, with a three per cent margin of error. (AFP)

A majority of Israelis backed the continuation of air strikes in the Gaza Strip. A public radio survey found that 57 per cent of those questioned were in favour of the raids, while 23 per cent were against. The rest expressed no opinion. The poll was conducted by the Maagar Institute, which interviewed a representative sample of 501 people, with a 4.5 per cent margin of error. (AFP)

24

Three Israeli soldiers, two women and a man, were killed and two others were wounded in an attack by at least one Palestinian who infiltrated a military camp near the “Netzarim” settlement, according to the media. The head of the Israeli military southern command, Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel, said one Palestinian had entered the camp and begun shooting at its barracks, while a second had remained outside the perimeter fence and fired shots from there. Al Manartelevision said a caller to its Gaza office had claimed joint responsibility on behalf of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Hamas identified the dead man as Mr. Samir Hamed Muhammad Fuda, 22, a resident of Jabalya refugee camp. (AFP, Albawaba.com, The Guardian)

Israeli soldiers reportedly shot dead a Palestinian trying to infiltrate the “Elei Sinai” settlement in northern Gaza. Palestinian security forces and local residents said the dead man was a mentally retarded resident of Beit Lahya, identifying him as Mr. Ismail Ayad, 32. The army said the troops had opened fire as the suspect approached the settlement’s security fence. (AFP, The Guardian)

An 11-year-old Palestinian was killed by IDF fire in the Gaza Strip. Mohammed Hamaydah was hit by a bullet in the abdomen when soldiers posted near the “Kfar Darom” settlement opened fire in the direction of a group of Palestinian children, according to Ibrahim al-Mussader, the head of Deir al-Balah hospital. He said no clashes had been reported in the area at the time of the incident. (AFP, AP, The Washington Post)

Two Palestinian men died of wounds sustained on 20 October in an Israeli helicopter missile strike in the Gaza refugee camp. Also, a 15-year-old Palestinian died of wounds from a firefight a week earlier between Israeli troops and Palestinians in Rafah. (AP, The Washington Post)

Israel’s Defence Ministry had formulated a plan to extend its separation barrier into a new area of the West Bank, a senior official said. The new segment would cut off the Jordan Valley, a region in the eastern West Bank where Israel had a number of settlements, and connect it to Israel. The Jordan Valley segment of the barrier was yet to be presented to the Government for approval. (The Guardian, The Washington Post)

25

According to Shifa Hospital, Hamas member Mr. Akram Bakhrun, 18, and Mr. Masoud A’ish, 35, died from injuries by air force strikes the previous week in Gaza. In Nablus, Ismail Kadus, 39, a construction worker from Burin, died at Rafidiyeh Hospital after being shot by soldiers as he tried to reach Nablus. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

In the town of Qatabiya in the West Bank, three Palestinians, including a 10-year-old child, were wounded by Israeli fire; troops were attacked by stone throwers when they staged an incursion into the area, according to Palestinian hospital sources. (AFP)

According to the media, Israeli soldiers raided two hospitals in Nablus to arrest two suspected Palestinian militants, including one who was being treated in the intensive care unit at the Anglican Hospital. Mr. Khaled Abu Hamad, 26, a member of Hamas, had been critically wounded on 22 October when his car was blown up in east Nablus. Troops also entered Rafidiyeh Hospital looking for another Hamas member. Instead, they arrested Mr. Jawad Shatyah, a Fatah member, who was said to have been living in the basement of the hospital. (AFP, DPA, The Washington Post)

Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) reportedly cancelled a special session to appoint a new speaker because the Israeli blockade prevented a quorum for the meeting. Deputy Speaker Ibrahim Abu Najar said members had been requesting travel permits to attend the meeting for the past 10 days but had not received an answer from Israel. A minimum of 43 deputies had to be present to elect a new speaker. Only 32 managed to reach Ramallah. Deputies who could have used videoconferencing to participate in the session refused, in protest, to enter the hall set up in Gaza for that purpose. The session was postponed to 1 November. (AFP)

Palestinian officials reportedly criticized new Israeli plans to extend the separation barrier that would sever areas containing thousands of Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, adviser to Palestinian Authority President Arafat, called the project a declaration of war against Palestinians. The Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported that there was a double security wall planned to protect Tel Aviv international airport, which would completely isolate Palestinian villages in the area. (DPA)

President Jacques Chirac, at the end of a four-day visit to Niger and Mali, said that continued fighting between Palestinians and Israelis had made him pessimistic about hopes for peace in the Middle East. “We can only deplore the situation … which we can see as a failure of the Road Map.” He insisted, however, that the European Union, Russia and the United Nations were determined to press on to the second stage of the plan, “which is that an international conference can intervene as quickly as possible.” He added that only the US could create the conditions “enabling a return to the round table, to discussions, to be able to break the deadlock.” (AFP)

26

According to the media, Mohammed Hameidah, 11, was killed in Deir al-Balah when IDF troops opened fire on a group of houses and Rami Alian, 22, was killed in a gun battle with an IDF force between the settlements of “Kissufim” and “Gush Katif.” (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Overnight, according to the media, Israeli troops raided the town of Al-Zahara, near the “Netzarim” settlement in Gaza, and blew up three partly constructed 13-storey apartment buildings after temporarily evacuating some 2,000 Palestinian residents living nearby. Israeli security sources said the buildings had been destroyed because Palestinian militants had used them to plan an attack on “Netzarim” on 24 October, during which three Israeli soldiers had been killed. One Israeli senior official said plans to demolish the buildings had been drawn up 11 months ago, and put on hold to allow the Palestinian Authority time to stop militants from using them as observation posts. Palestinian security sources said one person was wounded when troops opened fire from APCs with sub-machine guns as they approached the town. Palestinian witnesses said soldiers had stormed the police post at Al-Zahara about 2 kilometres south of Gaza City, arresting officers they found inside and seizing their weapons. The post was then blown up. Military spokesperson Sharon Feingold said officers were not arrested, but confirmed that the post had been destroyed. (AFP, BBC, Reuters, The Palestine Monitor)

Palestinian Authority Negotiations Affairs Minister Saeb Erakat called the demolition of the three buildings a “war crime,” saying that more than 140 apartments had been destroyed: “What the Israeli army had done this morning - destroying three housing projects – is a war crime and a major violation of the Geneva Convention.” (AFP)

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen “strongly deplored” the demolitions. “Destroying property as a punitive measure is a clear violation of the rules of international law. Such actions are also counterproductive towards Israel’s legitimate security concerns, for they foster anger and despair among Palestinians.” (AFP)

Prime Minister Qureia had asked to meet with Hamas leaders on a new truce (hudna), a senior Hamas member said. “Abu Ala [Mr. Qureia] sent a letter expressing his wish to meet with top leaders of the organization,” according to Ismail Haniyah, bureau chief of Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. “There is no reason not to meet with Abu Ala and preparations are already being made. We’ll listen to what Abu Ala has to say and we’ll tell him our views,” he added. Hamas officials were also in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials, who were interested in brokering a ceasefire. Meanwhile, Hamas official Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi said his organization was not interested in another hudna agreement, and rejected reports that Hamas was holding truce talks with the Palestinian leadership. (AP, Ha’aretz, The Washington Post)

Prime Minister Sharon reportedly told Foreign Minister Shalom during the Cabinet meeting to lobby Governments against supporting the Geneva Initiative. (AFP)

27

A Palestinian approaching a border fence in the Gaza Strip was shot dead by Israeli troops while three other Palestinians were wounded. The victim, who was not identified, was one of five Palestinians who had crossed into the “closed zone” near the Nahal Oz kibbutz, on the Israeli side of the border. The other four members of the group were arrested. (AFP)

The following is a statement released by the spokesman of the UN Secretary-General:

(UN press releases SG/SM/8968, PAL/1967)

Israel’s Defence Ministry reportedly said it planned to increase security and education services in some settlement outposts in the West Bank. The plans coincided with a decision by the Knesset finance committee to allot US$29 million to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Peace Now said the plans proved Prime Minister Sharon had lied when he promised Washington earlier during the year that Israel would remove dozens of outposts under the Road Map. “Sharon promised to take down the outposts and has lied to the Israeli public and to the Palestinian partners. The facts speak for themselves,” said Mr. Yariv Oppenheimer, director of Peace Now. The Defence Ministry denied that the move amounted to a granting of a more permanent status to eight outposts receiving the new services. “If the Government decides that these people shouldn’t be there, we will dismantle the outposts, but as long as they haven’t decided … and there are people there, I must give them security," said Ron Shechner, the Ministry’s settlement adviser. Mr. Oppenheimer said the measures would further entrench outposts that Israel had pledged to dismantle. “Instead of dealing with the problem and evacuating the outposts, they are making the problem worse,” he said. Peace Now said that when the Road Map was launched, there had been 104 outposts. Since then, the military had dismantled seven, but five more had been established, bringing the total to 102. Peace Now spokesperson Dror Etkes also said the population in the outposts had grown. (AP, Reuters, The Washington Post)

Defence Minister Mofaz had decided to accept the army’s recommendation and would announce the following day that the tight closure in the West Bank and Gaza would be relaxed in several areas, according to an Israeli media report. Several thousand Palestinians would be allowed to enter Israel, some of the activities in the industrial zones along the Green Line would be renewed, and restrictions on the transport of goods between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory would be eased. In addition, the siege of some Palestinian cities might be lifted where the threat of terrorism was low. The Shin Bet remained strongly opposed to easing any of the restrictions currently in place, arguing that the local terror networks were regrouping and planning attacks against Israeli targets on both sides of the Green Line. (Ha’aretz)

Nearly 1,100 Palestinians were reportedly stranded at the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip after Israel had tightened security measures. Egyptian merchants offered the first meal of Ramadan to many of the 500 who ended up spending 26 October outdoors as Israeli troops permitted only a trickle to cross into Gaza, according to Egyptian border guards. (AFP)

According to the media, Prime Minister Sharon said Israel had no plans to kill Palestinian Authority President Arafat. “I don’t see any plans to kill him although the man is responsible for the deaths of hundreds, of thousands of mostly civilians because his strategy is a strategy of terror,” Mr. Sharon told a group of European parliamentarians visiting Jerusalem. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Moreover, Mr. Sharon defended Israel’s separation barrier against criticism from Europe, telling a group of European MPs that it was vital for security reasons. He vowed to carry the project through, and also said the barrier would bar Palestinians from settling in Israel and marrying into Arab Israeli homes. “Tens and tens of thousands of Palestinians are moving to live in Arab Israeli towns, they get married, they become Israeli citizens. It’s a major problem, it’s an infiltration,” he said, adding: “Most Palestinian Israelis want normal lives, but a small minority is involved in terror … This minority is growing.” (AFP)

The Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned senior Swiss diplomat Claude Altermatt to protest Switzerland’s backing for the Geneva Accord Initiative, according to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jonathan Peled. Israeli officials expressed “misgivings about the Swiss involvement in promoting” the plan. Mr. Altermatt said he had stressed that Switzerland had only been a facilitator and that the negotiators were responsible for the final document: “Switzerland just provided a frame and gave money to push activities towards a peace solution here in the Middle East, where a very complex conflict is under way.” Mr. Altermatt, however, said his Government would support the formal launch of the document at a ceremony the following month. (AP, The Guardian, IBA, swissinfo.org)

French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hervé Ladsous denied France was offering financial support to the Geneva Initiative: “With respect to French support for the Geneva Initiative, we are surprised by the statements that have been made on this subject. Such support was never envisaged.” Mr. Ladsous also said the European Union had not been asked to review the issue, and reiterated Foreign Minister de Villepin’s statement that the plan was a “welcome” initiative that complemented the Road Map. (AFP)

The IDF said its Advocate-General had “authorized the military police to open an investigation surrounding the circumstance of an injury sustained by British citizen, Tom Hurndall, on 10 April 2003, along the Israel - Egypt border.” Mr. Hurndall, a 21-year-old International Solidarity Movement member, was reportedly trying to get a five-year-old girl to safety in Rafah when an Israeli sniper shot him in the head. (PNA International Press Centre, www.idf.il; see also 11 April and 6 May 2003)

28

A member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades was killed in Tulkarm by Israeli troops who had tried to arrest him but opened fire when he and another Palestinian shot at them. Witnesses said Ibrahim Al-Naamish, 37, had been shot dead at the entrance to the Tulkarm refugee camp by Israeli troops who had driven up to him in an unmarked car, adding that the Israeli shooting had been unprovoked and that the second man had been wounded. (Albawaba.com, AP, AFP, The Guardian, Ha’aretz, Reuters, The Washington Post)

Palestinian Authority President Arafat asked Prime Minister Qureia to stay on the job and form a new Government by the coming week. Mr. Qureia, whose one-month term as head of an emergency cabinet was to end on 4 November, said he had not received a formal offer yet, but that he would accept once he received it. He also said that he first wanted to settle a dispute over the top security post. Minister for Foreign Affairs Nabil Sha’ath said: “Abu Ala (Mr. Qureia) has agreed to form an enlarged Government and he will present it to parliament at the end of the current cabinet’s mandate.” He added: “There will be a strong, capable Interior Minister who will exercise all security responsibilities assigned to him. No names were discussed this morning, but, as I said, the principles and the basis are all agreed to.” Mr. Qureia had begun making contacts aimed at forming a new Palestinian Authority cabinet by the coming week. (Albawaba.com, AP, The Guardian, Ha’aretz, Reuters, The Washington Post)

Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said contacts were under way with Prime Minister Qureia to arrange a meeting between the two sides to discuss a possible truce. He added, however, that Hamas would retain the right to respond to “Israeli crimes,” and rejected earlier reports that Egypt had demanded that the group agree to a truce. Palestinian sources confirmed contacts between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in an attempt to renew the truce, and said those contacts might gain momentum towards the end of the term of the Palestinian Authority emergency cabinet and the formation of a new government by Mr. Qureia. (Ha’aretz)

China’s Middle East envoy Wang Shijie met with Palestinian Authority President Arafat and said he noted Mr. Arafat’s and Prime Minister Qureia’s “commitment to reach political compromises” with Israel. “We hope that the other party will adopt a similar stance,” he added. Addressing journalists after the meeting, he also criticized Israel’s separation barrier, saying it “violates every agreement signed” between the Palestinians and Israel. Mr. Wang acknowledged that his visit to Mr. Arafat ruled out any possibility of meeting with Israeli officials during his regional tour. (AFP)

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Sari Nusseibeh, President of Al-Quds University, and Ami Ayalon, a retired admiral and former head of Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet, to discuss their one-page “Statement of Principles” drawn up as a basis for a peace settlement. Since 23 June 2003, the two campaigners have gathered signatures of 100,000 Israelis and 60,000 Palestinians for the “People’s Voice” initiative. Mr. Annan welcomed their efforts and courage, saying that grass-roots initiatives “helped to create a vision of a common future,” according to a United Nations read-out of the meeting. Adm. Ayalon told reporters after the meeting: “Time is running out. Time is against the option of a two-State solution, which is the only way for Israel to have a safe home and the Palestinians to have a State.” He said that demographic considerations and Israeli settlements were altering the situation, and that people were slowly giving up hope: “More and more people do not believe any more that we can have it.” Prof. Nusseibeh said their proposals needed to be inserted into the Road Map: “This one-page insert outlines the vision that is absent in Road Map. This speaks honestly to people, presenting them with the principles that will be the basis for any viable two-State solution.” (Reuters, UN daily briefing;see also 26 June 2003)

Israel’s State Prosecutor’s office reportedly launched a police investigation of an alleged Jewish militia operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. A complaint filed by MK Reshef Chen (Shinui) said that the group, which called itself “The New Jewish Legion” and listed some of its activities on its web site, had been set up by members of the outlawed Kach movement and was led by Yekutiel Ben Yaakov. (IBA)

Four Israelis and four Palestinians were to undergo a week-long high-altitude course in the French Alps in the coming month, ahead of their peace mission to Antarctica. On the initiative of leading Israeli climber Doron Erel, the eight-member team was to undergo cold-weather and snow training at Chamonix. The team would later travel by boat to Chile and then to Antarctica where they intended to climb a 2,000-metre peak, which they planned to name the “summit of peace.” (AFP)

29

The IDF reportedly shot dead Mohammed Awad, 26, who it said was active in the Islamic Jihad’s military branch, the Saraya al-Quds (Jerusalem Brigades). A second Palestinian was wounded and arrested. Israeli military sources said the two had been spotted at dawn by troops “travelling in an area forbidden to Palestinians near the Nahal Oz kibbutz,” having penetrated halfway into the 300-metres-wide buffer zone between Israel and the Gaza Strip when the forces opened fire. Both Palestinians were unarmed, but Israeli sources said a search party had retrieved a cellular phone and sketches of the area, which they claimed were “proof of their intention to gather information for the next suicide attack.” An IDF spokesman subsequently stated that a 20-kg explosive device found nearby had apparently been left by the two men. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Israeli soldiers shot dead a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Baha Zbeibi, near Nablus, hospital officials reported. They said the soldiers had shot him in the stomach during clashes with stone-throwing youths in the Balata refugee camp adjacent to the city. An IDF spokesman said the soldiers had opened fire at one of the rioters who was throwing firebombs at them. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Salah Asaad, 16, from the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza, died from wounds sustained in an Israeli air strike on 20 October, Shifa hospital in Gaza City reported. (DPA, Reuters)

Four Palestinians were shot and wounded by Israeli troops in the Rafah refugee camp while trying to repair electricity lines damaged in IDF raids earlier during the month, according to local medics and witnesses. The IDF said its position along the Israel-Egypt border, near Rafah, had come under fire and its troops had shot back. It also said a similar exchange of fire had taken place near the “Netzarim” settlement, but said no injuries or damage had been reported in any of those incidents. (Reuters,www.idf.il)

Palestinian gunmen reportedly fired on a car containing an Israeli settler couple on a road between the “Kadim” and “Ganim” settlements, east of Jenin. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades took responsibility for the shooting in a phone call to AFP in Jenin. The husband was wounded in the head and was in moderate to serious condition in a Haifa hospital, while his wife had experienced shock but otherwise was uninjured. Local residents said an Israeli helicopter gunship had later fired two missiles into a Palestinian house in a Jenin suburb. The witnesses said the building had burst into flames but no people were inside at the time. Israeli military denied the helicopters were involved, with an Israeli military source telling Reuters: “Israeli tanks fired at a building where a gunman who carried out a shooting near Jenin was hiding.” (AFP, IBA, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters, www.idf.il)

IDF bulldozers backed by armoured cars reportedly penetrated some 200m into Rafah, destroying a Palestinian house before withdrawing. An Israeli military source confirmed the operation, saying it was aimed at preventing arms smuggling by militant groups after two armed Palestinians had been spotted in an empty building. (AFP)

Palestinian Prime Minister Qureia told reporters in Ramallah he would travel to Gaza soon to try persuade militant organizations to agree to a mutual ceasefire with Israel, which he saw as a prelude to beginning negotiations. He said truce talks with Hamas had been “constructive” and that the organizations “welcomed” the opportunity to try and strengthen Palestinian unity. “I don’t have American and Israeli assurances. I want Palestinian assurances, and if I get these Palestinian assurances, then there will be no problem,” Mr. Qureia said. “If we unite, we will open roads; if we don’t unite, we will close the roads on ourselves.” Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was ready to hold talks with Prime Minister Qureia, Palestinian officials later said. (AP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

The IDF began easing a strict closure imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territory nearly four weeks earlier, following a suicide bombing in Haifa, Israel Army Radio reported. An IDF statement said permission had been granted to 3,000 traders from the West Bank and 1,000 traders from the Gaza Strip to enter Israel and to 1,500 workers (aged 21 and over) from the West Bank to work in the “Atarot” industrial area, just north of Jerusalem. Although the blockade of West Bank cities continued, with roadblocks at their entrances still closed to private cars, public transportation between them had been allowed again since the morning. According to Yediot Aharonot,the move followed warnings by the military that the ongoing curfew and closure would strengthen radical groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon recommended that the curfew be eased, particularly in areas from where no attacks had originated. But such requests had been blocked by Defence Minister Mofaz, his political chief of staff Amos Gilad, and the head of Israel’s Internal Security Service, Avi Dichter, until after the Israeli local elections which took place on 28 October, the paper said. “In our tactical decisions we are working against our strategic interests,” Gen. Ya’alon was further quoted as saying. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters, www.idf.il)

Two Israeli civil and human rights organizations – the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and B’tselem – petitioned the High Court of Justice requesting that the IDF be compelled to investigate all incidents in which Palestinian civilians were killed. The groups cited the 2,527 Palestinians who had been killed in the past three years. The IDF acknowledged that at least 200 of them were civilian non-combatants, whereas the petitioners claimed the actual number was much higher. The petition demanded that the Judge Advocate General’s Office resume the practice of ordering a military police investigation every time a non-combatant Palestinian was killed. Such order to investigate was currently left to the discretion of the commanders of units involved in the incident. (IBA)

United States Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer told reporters in Haifa: “Our position on the wall has been made very clear and there has been no change. We do not question Israel’s right to defend itself and we do not dictate to Israel the means for it to defend itself. We have had discussions with Israel, however, with regard to the direction and the course that the security fence is taking and those discussions will continue.” (The Jerusalem Post)

30

Labour Party leader Shimon Peres warned against abandoning the Road Map in favour of the Geneva Initiative, saying after talks with President Chirac: “Since we already have a plan which is accepted by Palestinians, Israelis and the rest of the world, I wouldn’t change it for something that could become controversial. Why give it up? … It’s better to invest energy to move ahead with the Road Map than to start again to negotiate another agreement.” Senior Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Le Temps,also dismissed the initiative, calling it “a very bad idea” and sharply criticizing Switzerland for supporting it. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The Centre for the Defence of the Individual (HaMoked) petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice to close a secret jail where Palestinian prisoners said they had been held incommunicado under cruel conditions in violation of international law. The prison, located on a secret military base believed to be in central Israel, was referred to as Facility 1391. HaMoked director Dalia Kerstein said it was the only Israeli jail closed to visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross. (Reuters, www.hamoked.org.il; see also 8 September 2003)

The Jerusalem Post reported that heavyweight boxing legend Mohammed Ali intended to come to Israel during the winter to strengthen One Voice, a grassroots peace initiative seeking to find common ground between the “silent majority” of Israelis and Palestinians, according to Daniel Lubetzsky, president of the US-based Peace Works Foundation that launched the initiative. (The Jerusalem Post)

Khaled Mashaal, Hamas political chief, speaking from Beirut in an interview with the Al-ArabiyaTV, ruled out a quick truce agreement with Israel, saying: “[Prime Minister] Sharon does not want a ceasefire and the United States is preoccupied with Iraq and its elections.” (The Jerusalem Post)

Moshe Lippel, a representative of the Israeli Defence Ministry’s budget division, speaking in the Knesset’s Economics Committee, reportedly said the separation barrier would cost more than NIS7.5 billion, not NIS4.5 billion as previously estimated by Treasury officials. He said work on the fence would be finished within two years at a pace of NIS3 billion a year. MK Uri Ariel (National Union), Chairman of the Joint Committee for the Defence Budget, a statutory body involved in planning and funding the barrier, confirmed media reports that the cost could reach NIS10 billion. (The Jerusalem Post)

An unnamed Israeli official in Washington, quoted by Kol Israel,said the United States Administration was not disengaging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and denied a Channel One TV report that Washington had complained to Jerusalem over a delay in dismantling settlement outposts. The official stated that the Administration had expressed its concern to Israel over three issues - the preious week’s announcement of additional housing units in “Givat Zeev” and “Karnei Shomron”; the decision to provide services to unauthorized outposts; and reports on construction of a Jordan Valley security fence - but was far more concerned at the lack of Palestinian action against terrorism. AP said that “apparent” United States diplomatic disengagement was seen as pressing Palestinians to crack down on militant groups, and went on to quote an unnamed United States official, as follows: “There is engagement, but don’t forget that in the absence of concrete steps that are not ours to make, there is a limit to what we can do.” Kadoura Fares, a member of the Fatah delegation of legislators who met in Washington with David Satterfield at the State Department, said: “We were able to understand from him that the Americans will stay outside until the Palestinians take some steps.” The Americans also opposed the “truce first” approach, Mr. Fares said, adding that Mr. Satterfield had told the visiting legislators that the Palestinians needed to take action to show they were serious. (AP, IBA, The Jerusalem Post)

Russia introduced a draft resolution in the Security Council endorsing the Road Map and calling “on the parties to fulfil their obligations under the Road Map in cooperation with the Quartet and to achieve the vision of two States.” James Cunningham, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the US to the UN, said: “We think we need to look at the context, the timing and what we want the impact to be. We don’t think the timing is right now because there is no Palestinian Government in place.” In response, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, Sergei Lavrov, said: “Frankly I don’t think it is quite convincing, irrespective who is going to be on the Government. The timing is almost perfect. We are aiming at adopting the resolution by consensus next week exactly at the time the Government is going to be formed.” (Reuters)

The United States Embassy in Tel Aviv said the State Department was offering up to US$5 million for information that would help find those behind the roadside bomb attack that had killed three American security guards on 15 October in Gaza and destroyed a United States diplomatic vehicle. In addition, the State Department said informants could also be eligible for US protection and relocation along with their families through its “Rewards for Justice” programme. (AFP, AP, www.rewardsforjustice.net )

The United States had reduced the size and cut the budget of the team monitoring the implementation of the Road Map, the State Department said. At the same time, spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington had not lost confidence in the Road Map but stressed that the Palestinians first had to clamp down on anti-Israeli violence for progress to be made. (AFP, www.state.gov)

During a lecture at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., United States Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz reportedly expressed his support for the “People’s Voice” initiative drawn up by former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon and President of Al-Quds University Sari Nusseibeh. The two had presented Mr. Wolfowitz with the main principles of the plan during a meeting in Washington the previous week. Mr. Wolfowitz said that plan was very similar in nature to the Road Map. According to the People’s Voice web site, some 94,000 Israelis and 60,000 Palestinians had signed up for the plan. (Ha’aretz)

According to the media, vandals had sprayed paint on a Tel Aviv monument commemorating Israel’s late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, less than 48 hours before a rally marking the eighth anniversary of his assassination. On a banner carrying a picture of Rabin that had been put up for the rally, the vandals had also splashed the words “Kahane was right”, in reference to Rabbi Meir Kahane, the late founder of the extremist Kach movement. (AFP)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a statement that the Geneva Initiative was a welcome contribution to the debate over the region’s future. Mr. Blair declined comment on the content and said: “At this time both people need hope. This initiative gives them a chance to look beyond current difficulties to what might be achievable with goodwill on both sides. I hope that the initiative will stimulate debate, remind people of why peace is worth working for, show that Israelis and Palestinians remain capable of finding partners for peace and working together, and encourage them back to the negotiating table.” (AFP, Reuters)

Speaking at an economic forum in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Sharon reportedly said: “I believe that we are on the verge of making a breakthrough and entering a path of peace and quiet… We are maintaining dialogue with the Palestinians, although not on the level of Prime Minister. The reason we don’t have prime ministerial level contacts stems from the fact that Palestinians have requested time to allow the designated Palestinian Prime Minister to establish himself. We are ready to enter negotiations at any time.” Palestinian Authority Cabinet Minister Jamal al-Shobaki denied that a request had been made to delay a Sharon-Qureia meeting. Palestinian Authority President’s adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh said contacts already taking place between the two sides were not serious and demanded that Israel pull its forces out of the West Bank and Gaza and stop the construction of settlements. “We are looking for serious negotiations without aggression,” he said. (AP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

31

A Palestinian student at Al-Najah University was reportedly shot and fatally wounded at an IDF roadblock near Nablus. Later reports said Mohammed Hammad, 23, had been shot dead by an Israeli patrol as he rode his motorcycle. An IDF spokesman said soldiers had shot the man in the leg after he turned his motorcycle around and tried to drive away from the spot-checkpoint near the Askar refugee camp outside Nablus, ignoring shouts in Arabic to stop. The spokesman added that the victim appeared to be slightly wounded when he took a taxi to the hospital. The soldiers had checked his identity card and it became clear that he was neither wanted by Israel nor armed. Doctors at the Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus said the man had been shot in the chest and subsequently died. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Israeli soldiers detonated a 10 kg explosive device in the house of a suspected Palestinian militant in the village of Hizma, near the “Pisgat Zeev” settlement in East Jerusalem, according to Israel Army Radio. The charge was an explosives belt such as those used by suicide bombers. The explosion destroyed the ground floor of the building and seriously damaged the first floor, the witnesses said. The day before, Israeli troops had arrested the owner’s son, Tawfiq Mustafa Abdullah, suspected of being involved in anti-Israeli attacks. Also, an IDF post in the “Bet Hadassah” settlement in Hebron came under Palestinian fire. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)

According to the media, demonstrators from across Israel’s political spectrum gathered in the morning in the Negev calling for the evacuation of “Netzarim,” where three Israeli soldiers had been killed by a Palestinian gunman a week earlier. (The Jerusalem Post)

Israel limited the access of Muslim worshippers to the Al-Haram Al-Sharif compound for special Friday prayers during the holy month of Ramadan: men had to be older than 45 and women at least 35, said Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby. The Police set the quota at 4,000 from the West Bank and 1,000 from the Gaza Strip. No age restrictions were imposed on Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. Despite the restrictions, about 175,000 Palestinians flocked to the compound for Ramadan prayers, while others were turned away at army checkpoints. In Bethlehem, IDF soldiers prevented a few hundred worshippers from entering Jerusalem, some of whom tried to push their way through when troops fired a stun grenade. One Palestinian was reported slightly injured. Asked about the scuffles at the Bethlehem checkpoint, the military said that Palestinian officials in the city had not provided lists of names of worshippers, preventing soldiers from allowing people past checkpoints. Before the start of the intifada three years earlier, a quarter of a million people used to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the first Friday of Ramadan. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Israeli Defence Minister Mofaz authorized Palestinian Legislative Council members from the Gaza Strip to attend a Palestinian Legislative Council session in Ramallah to participate in a vote of confidence for the government which Prime Minister Qureia was due to present. Going against security service recommendations, and following consultations with Defence Ministry officials and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Gen. Mofaz, quoted by Israel Army Radio,said: “Renewing contacts and discussions are in our interests, and we should do all we can to enable the Palestinian Authority to establish an effective government with which we can negotiate.” (AFP, The Jerusalem Post)

Israel was to propose a meeting between Prime Ministers Sharon and Qureia immediately after the latter, as expected, presented his new Government during the coming week, according to an evening report on the Israeli Channel 2TV reflected in the press. Mr. Sharon was “ready to consider such a meeting,” the TV station said, but his office refused to either confirm or deny the report when questioned by AFP. Reuters quoted Israeli political sources as saying the same day that Defence Minister Mofaz would hold talks with Palestinian leaders the following week, in what would be the first such ministerial meeting between the two sides since Ahmed Qureia was named Prime Minister. The following day Mr. Qureia said that no date had been set for a meeting, but when asked about the possibility that he would hold talks with Mr. Sharon, he told reporters: “We are not against [it].” An unnamed official with the Israeli delegation in Russia told AFP: “The Prime Minister thinks a meeting is possible within the next few days with Ahmed Qureia.” (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The Technion Institute of Technology said in a statement that it had adapted armoured Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers to operate without drivers and that they would be deployed by the IDF “in the very near future.” The IDF declined comment. Abu Abir, a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, told Reuters in Gaza that new bulldozers would not stop his group from targeting Israeli soldiers. “We will deal with their new bulldozers and we will develop our methods to destroy them,” he said, adding: “In the past, fighters used to snipe at the bulldozer drivers. Now we will have to bomb them and blow them up completely.”(Reuters, www.technion.ac.il)


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