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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
28 February 2002
D i v i s i o n f o r P a l e s t i n i a n R i g h t s



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


February 2002

1

Following a meeting with King Abdullah II at the White House, President Bush said Mr. Arafat had to show the world that he was “willing to join [the] fight against terror”, adding that he thought pretty good progress had been made until the “Karine A” arms shipment had been discovered for what seemed to be for “terrorist purposes”. President Bush assured King Abdullah that the US Administration did not plan to sever contacts with Chairman Arafat, but said the US would not renew direct efforts to broker Middle East peace until Mr. Arafat took concrete steps against terrorism. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Turkish Presidential Spokesman Tacan Ildem said Chairman Arafat had written to President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Bûlent Ecevit asking for Turkey to become involved in the Middle East peace process. Mr. Ildem told reporters in Ankara that President Sezer believed that the only option facing the Palestinians and the Israelis was peace achieved through “prudence and dialogue” and that Turkey could play a “facilitator role”, for instance by hosting talks. (AFP, Reuters)

A poll published in Ma’ariv showed that 54 per cent of the Israelis surveyed were dissatisfied with the way Prime Minister Sharon handled security questions, compared with 37 per cent who expressed their satisfaction. It was not clear, however, whether respondents wanted the Prime Minister to act in a tougher or more conciliatory way with the Palestinians. 54 per cent wanted Chairman Arafat ousted, down from more than 70 per cent a few weeks ago. Some 47 per cent thought the Government should resume talks with the Palestinians. (AFP)

After expressing regret, on 31 January, that Israel had not assassinated Chairman Arafat in Beirut in 1982, Prime Minister Sharon, in an interview with Ma’ariv, said “today we have no inclination to hurt Arafat personally. It would harm Israel. We have no intention now to harm Arafat or to dismantle the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority.” (Reuters)

The IDF had opened fire with heavy machine-guns on the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, injuring one man and damaging several houses, hospital sources and witnesses said. (AFP)

Israeli public radio reported that Prime Minister Sharon had met with senior Palestinian officials, including Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala), in Jerusalem for the first time since he had taken office in March 2001. PA officials denied a Ha’aretz report that Mr. Sharon presented proposals for a long-term interim settlement, while other reports suggested that the meeting was merely in preparation for Mr. Sharon’s upcoming visit to Washington. Speaking to the Cabinet, the Prime Minister did not rule out further meetings with PA officials. Declaring, “we can’t walk away” from the crisis in the Middle East, Secretary of State Powell said he was pleased Mr. Sharon had met Palestinian officials and that he intended to do so as well in coming days. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

2

Israeli helicopter gunships launched a rocket attack at PA naval police HQ in Deir el-Balah, following Palestinian attacks on nearby army posts, in which one soldier had been slightly wounded. IDF troops backed by tanks moved more than 800 metres into Deir el-Balah opening fire at the residential area and a security barrier, injuring at least six Palestinians, according to medical sources. Later in the day five tanks and two bulldozers moved into Khan Yunis, about 1 kilometre from the “Morag” settlement, opening heavy machine-gun fire. (AFP, Reuters, WAFA)

The Palestinian leadership issued a statement stressing that security could not be attained under occupation, and that the Israeli decision to erect the “Berlin wall” in Jerusalem, the so-called “Jerusalem Envelope” plan, would not bring security to Israel. (Arutz 7, WAFA)

3

Fatah accused Israel of trying to assassinate one of its members in the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem. The man was seriously wounded with a severed hand and shrapnel in his leg after an explosive device had gone off. (AFP)

Ha’aretz reported that at a Quartet meeting on 31 January in Washington, EU representatives Javier Solana and Miguel Moratinos had raised the idea of an international conference aimed at immediately renewing the political process, but the US had rejected it. As an alternative to an international conference, Mr. Solana had suggested adopting the French plan for new elections in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which had been formulated in consultation with senior PA officials. Both proposals had been supported by the UN Special Coordinator, but opposed by Israel. The US had also come out against a proposal that the “Quartet” function as a single body that would make parallel demands from both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Ha’aretz quoted an Al-Hayat report that the US was formulating a new ceasefire proposal that included new elections for PA President. (Ha’aretz)

Chairman Arafat published an op-ed piece in The New York Times, saying that the Palestinians were seeking only what the free world now enjoyed and only what Israel insisted on for itself: the right to control their destiny and to live as a peace nation. He also expressed his determination to put an end to the terrorist activities and, in a reference to the Palestinian refugee issue, for the first time acknowledged that the Palestinians must be “realistic” with respect to Israel’s demographic concerns. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Sharon’s Office dismissed the article as a “worthless publicity stunt,” while President Bush’s national security adviser Condoleezza Rice called it “not helpful.” (AFP, Arutz 7, DPA, The New York Times)

The IDF Judge Advocate-General’s office set out conditions for the army’s controversial policy of targeted killings of Palestinian militants, saying all other channels must first be exhausted and only “ticking-bomb” suspects are eligible for assassination. It ruled out revenge killings for past attacks and said strikes could only take place if there was “well-supported evidence” that a militant was planning or about to execute an attack in the near future. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Assad Kotaite, President of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), told reporters in Cairo that he had made a request to Israeli Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh for Israel to stop destroying Palestinian aviation facilities and to allow the resumption of civilian air traffic. (Reuters)

4

Israeli helicopter gunships launched a rocket attack at a metalwork factory suspected of being used for producing mortar shells in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, setting it ablaze. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Four Palestinians died when their car exploded near Rafah, about 400 metres from the border with Egypt. A fifth was critically injured and pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The victims reportedly belonged to DFLP, which vowed to revenge the killings. Israeli security sources confirmed the following day that the five Palestinians had been the target of an IDF operation. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Jerusalem municipal authorities demolished two houses in the Issawiya neighbourhood of East Jerusalem as “built without permission,” leading to clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli border police. Fifteen houses had been demolished in the city in January. (DPA, Ha’aretz, ITAR-TASS)

B’Tselem issued its first comprehensive report about house demolitions in the Gaza Strip, saying the policy constituted “collective punishment” and was aimed at setting up security zones around PA areas in the Strip. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Secretary of State Powell met with Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala), Speaker of the Palestinian Council, in Washington. “The Secretary took the opportunity to underscore what we have been saying publicly, as well as directly: that there is no question that Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have the responsibility right now to take strong, resolute and reversible action to halt the violence and terror,” said Deputy State Department spokesman Philip Reeker. Abu Ala told reporters after the meeting: “We talked about everything, what is on the ground, what is for the future and how to overcome all the problems and obstacles in the way of negotiations and peace.” (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Palestinian and Israeli businessmen participating in the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in New York announced that they would be meeting regularly in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to lobby their respective leaders for peace. The Chairman of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, Dan Gillerman, said the business leaders would seek to convince their political leaders “that the key to everything, to economic prosperity, to standards of living, to success, to well being of our region, [was] peace.” Secondly, the group would try to demonstrate the value of negotiations even under the harshest conditions, he said. (AFP, XINHUA)

5

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine said “to eradicate terrorism and build peace the 15 [EU Member States] believe that Israel needs the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Yasser Arafat, as an interlocutor in negotiations”. “There is no other solution but to create a Palestinian State next to that of Israel, it is an outcome that the current majority in power in Israel fears but is a necessity which is once again coming to the fore,” Mr. Védrine added. (AFP)

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer met with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists in Berlin to discuss options for reducing tensions in the Middle East. The Israelis present at the talks were former Justice Minister Yossi Beilin and Meretz Party Chairman, Yossi Sarid. PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo and the head of the Jerusalem Center for Media and Communication, Ghassan Khatib, attended on the Palestinian side. The participants agreed that the violence and terror in the region would only stop when trust and political dialogue between the two sides had been reestablished. (AFP)

EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, during a briefing for the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the situation in the Middle East, said that Israeli leaders did not wish to be perceived as “rewarding violence” and Palestinian leaders did not wish to be perceived as “rewarding occupation”. “We appreciate the political constraints on leaders of both sides. Nevertheless, if the cycle of violence is to be broken, there needs to be a new bilateral relationship incorporating both security cooperation and negotiations”, he added, noting that mutual recognition could be achieved if initially the principle of a Palestinian State were established. Discussions about borders and the status of Jerusalem could be negotiated later Mr. Solana said. The EU would continue to recognize Chairman Arafat as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and Israel should do the same, as a matter of urgency, he said. (AFP, DPA)

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told Italian deputies that Chairman Arafat was the sole Palestinian negotiator in a situation in the Middle East, which could “explode throughout the Arab and Muslim world”, adding that Italy would provide economic aid to the Palestinian population, working with “Israelis and aides of Yasser Arafat.” (AFP)

President Mubarak said in Cairo said that the Palestinians had lost too many opportunities that could have led to the creation of an independent homeland. As early as 1948, 1956 and 1967 a number of proposals had been presented to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli territorial dispute, but they were all turned down, he said. Then came the Camp David negotiations and the framework formulated by late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, “when there were only 18 Israeli settlements”, but this too had been rejected. “Huge opportunities to resolve the conflict presented themselves and they were all lost,” said the President, adding that one such chance had been missed when Itzhak Rabin was Prime Minister of Israel. The Palestinians had insisted that the settlements be dismantled despite assurances by Prime Minister Rabin that the settlements would disappear eventually, as the Israelis had no interest in living among the Palestinians. President Mubarak, however, blamed much of the ongoing violence on Israel’s policy of sealing off Palestinian areas, saying these closures had led to despair and hopelessness among Palestinians and noting that the non-implementation of signed agreements was one of the factors complicating the issue. (DPA)

Secretary of State Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Chairman Arafat must “choose once and for all” whether he wanted to pursue peace with Israel or continue on a course of confrontation and violence. Mr. Powell also called on Israel to ease restrictions on Palestinian territories. (AFP, DPA)

Red Crescent spokesman Mohammed Iyad said the organization had checked and found “entirely incorrect” Israel’s allegations that Wafa Idris, the Ramallah woman killed when a bomb she carried into downtown Jerusalem exploded, got there by a Red Crescent ambulance. Mr. Iyad said that according to records, none of the group’s ambulances were in Jerusalem on the day of the explosion. “And Wafa [who was a volunteer in the Red Crescent] wasn’t even working that day. She usually worked on Fridays,” he added. He said the IDF was “raising the accusation because of criticism of its behaviour toward ambulances since the start of the intifada.” According to Mr. Iyad, 68 Red Crescent ambulances had come under attack from the IDF leading to the death of a paramedic and the wounding of 122 other workers. Mr. Iyad stressed that the Red Crescent had also treated 39 Israeli casualties. “We will continue our work saving lives irrespective of the national identity of the victims.” The IDF is using the information to explain why it needs to examine ambulances at checkpoints. In two recent cases, a baby died during childbirth because the soldiers at checkpoints did not allow ambulances to get through the Jenin area. The IDF Prosecutor-General ordered an investigation of the last of the two deaths, and an IDF commission was set up, headed by Operations Division Chief Gen. Dan Harel, to lay down guidelines for procedures at checkpoints. In the latest incident of this kind, a baby boy was delivered at an IDF checkpoint west of Khan Yunis when the ambulance with his mother was delayed for several hours on the way to Nasser Hospital in the city. The mother wants to name the boy Hajiz, the Arabic for “roadblock.” (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

6

French Foreign Minister Védrine, speaking on RFI, said that European countries did not agree with the Middle East policy of the White House and thought it was a mistake to support Prime Minister Sharon’s “purely repressive policies.” He described the isolation of Chairman Arafat as “another error.” Mr. Védrine also warned that the interests of the rest of the world were under threat from a “simplistic” US foreign policy that emerged after the 11 September attacks. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Washington would continue to work with the PA and its elected leader, Yasser Arafat, US Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East William Burns told reporters in Cairo after meeting President Mubarak. (AFP)

Another group of 125 Israeli reservists added their signatures to the letter stating that they would refuse to serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported. The IDF had already suspended 48 reserve soldiers and officers who had signed the letter first published on 25 January. (Ha’aretz)

Municipality crews under heavy IDF protection resumed demolishing 28 Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem and Beit Hanina as “built without permits.” One house was destroyed in the Al-Ashqarya neighbourhood of Beit Hanina and two more in West Shu’fat. Sari Nusseibeh condemned the demolition as a “provocative offence.” Ha’aretz quoted Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert as saying that the municipality would demolish unlicensed buildings in East Jerusalem “every week,” and alleging that the PA and affiliated groups were behind widespread illegal construction there, with the aim of undermining Israel’s sovereignty claims. In a further interview with Israel Radio, Mr. Olmert did not repeat the allegations but denied the municipality was discriminating against Palestinians in the city. He said that of 219 building requests made by Palestinians last year, 191 had been approved. Israel also had extended the closure of Orient House for another six months, Israel Radio and Palestinian sources said, and had closed two more Palestinian offices: The Land Research Centre, which was part of the Arab Studies Society in East Jerusalem, and the Multisectoral and Technical Offices of the Welfare Association, a NGO with headquarters in Geneva. (AP, BBC, DPA, Ha’aretz, LAW, WAFA)

Amnesty International delegates who had been visiting Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory said that only justice and a commitment to uphold human rights for all could end a crisis that was spiralling out of control. The delegates, who included a military adviser, condemned the Israeli use of weapons that caused massive destruction of property, as well as of tank shells containing flechettes, as “entirely inappropriate for use in one of the most densely populated areas in the world.” “Areas of Palestinian homes which we had visited several times over the past year were now razed to the ground for alleged security reasons but apparently as collective punishment”, said delegates. “The IDF, whose mission statement emphasizes ‘the supreme value of human life’, is accepting or even ordering unpardonable acts,” said the delegates. Delegates also condemned Palestinian armed attacks on Israeli civilians. “The deliberate targeting of civilians can never be justified,” said AI. (AFP, AI press release MDE 15/012/2002)

Palestinian Police Commissioner Mussa Jadallah had met his Israeli West Bank counterpart, Commander Shahar Ayalon, for the first time since September 2000, said an Israeli police spokesman. The meeting took place at the Ma’alei Hahamisha kibbutz, west of Jerusalem, and focused on Palestinian-Israeli cooperation “in the field of criminal affairs” such as “shared investigations.” (AFP)

A 16-year-old Palestinian had died after having been shot by Israel heavy machinegun fire in the area of Salah ed-Din road in Rafah, Palestinian medical sources said. The incident occurred as an Israeli bulldozer and tank began bulldozing Palestinian land in the same area, witnesses said. (AFP, DPA, XINHUA)

The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, asked that international observers be sent to the Middle East. He told Vatican Radio that “the Holy See has been thinking of this proposal for more than a year, as one cannot witness passively the daily deaths of Israelis and Palestinians.” (WAFA)

France would give €7.14 million (about US$6.28 million) in aid to Palestine in 2002, one-fourth of which would go to educational cooperation, the French Foreign Ministry announced. (AFP)

Secretary of State Powell told the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee that he could not tie the “Karine A” arms shipment directly to Chairman Arafat on the basis of the information that was available to him. “It certainly is a case where he should have known and may well have known. I just cannot prove that he did know, or had direct control over the operation”, Mr. Powell added, noting that it was, however, close enough that the PA had to take responsibility for the incident. (AFP, Ha’aretz, XINHUA)

The IDF imposed a curfew on four West Bank villages located east of Nablus: Beit Hassan, Ein Shibli, Al-Agrabaniya and Al-Nassariya, as it searched the nearby area for militants after a Palestinian gunman killed a woman, her 11-year-old daughter and a soldier before being killed himself during an attack at the “Hamra” settlement also east of Nablus. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. In the same area some 200 Palestinians were blocked at a checkpoint as they tried to return to their home from a visit to Jordan. In response to the attack, Israeli F-16s fired at the PA compound and factories and workshops in Nablus. Palestinian officials said 11 people, mostly policemen, were wounded. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters, XINHUA)

7

Israel launched a second retaliatory air strike on the PA compound in Nablus, wounding at least one person. “In retaliation for the murderous shooting attack which took place last night in Hamra settlement... the army this evening struck the offices of the Palestinian General Security Service in Nablus,” an IDF statement said. (AFP, Arutz 7, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice warned visiting Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer that Israel’s decision to keep Chairman Arafat confined to Ramallah might not have the desired outcome. Ms. Rice, who stressed that she was speaking on behalf of President Bush, said Mr. Arafat’s confinement to his compound could have the reverse effect and actually strengthen his position. (Ha’aretz)

In a photo opportunity with Prime Minister Sharon at the Oval office, President Bush said he had assured Mr. Sharon that the US would “continue to keep pressure on Mr. Arafat to convince him that he must take serious, concrete, real steps to reduce terrorist activity in the Middle East”. Mr. Sharon described Mr. Arafat as “an obstacle to peace” and called for more pressure to be brought to bear to yield an “alternative” Palestinian Authority leadership. Mr. Sharon also said, that “Israel [was] committed to peace. At the end of the process, I believe that a Palestinian State would be, we will see a Palestinian State”. Asked repeatedly about Mr. Sharon’s call for a “boycott” of Mr. Arafat, President Bush declined to comment. White House officials, however, said President Bush had told Mr. Sharon that the US would “remain engaged in the region and engaged with the Palestinian Authority, a message that had also been conveyed to the press by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer before the meeting. Mr. Bush also said he was “deeply concerned about the plight of the average Palestinian, the moms and dads who [were] trying to raise their children, to educate their children,” adding that he had “$300 million in the budget to go through NGOs to help Palestinians be able to realize a better life.” (AFP, DPA, The Financial Times, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters, XINHUA)

EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that Chairman Arafat remained the legitimate interlocutor for peace talks despite Israel’s dismissal of him as “irrelevant”. The Parliament website carried the following text of a Parliament resolution on the Middle East:

8

The IDF said it had arrested three suspected militants during tank and troop raids in Nablus and Hebron and in the West Bank villages of Tamoun and Birzeit. Palestinian security sources said 10 tanks and armoured vehicles made incursions about 200 metres into Nablus with troops entering several homes and taking over a Palestinian checkpoint on the outskirts of the city. The IDF said in a statement that its forces were tightening a military blockade around Nablus because the city had harboured militants accused of carrying out attacks on Israelis. In another development, a Palestinian man had been killed overnight in an explosion at an Israeli checkpoint outside of Bethlehem, according to a Palestinian security official. The family of the killed Palestinian said they believed he had carried out a suicide bombing but the IDF reported no other casualties in the explosion. A 14-year-old Palestinian had died and another had been shot and wounded by Israeli police in a chase in East Jerusalem after an Israeli woman had been found stabbed, a police source said. (AFP, AP, BBC, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters, XINHUA)

9

EU Foreign Ministers ended their two-day brainstorming retreat in the Spanish town of Caceres with a debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying there should be less stress on security and more on political aspects of the conflict. The creation of a Palestinian State must be the “starting point of a negotiating process,” French Foreign Minister Védrine said as he presented a plan drawn up by France. Mr. Védrine spelled out the sequence of events without detailing a timeline: (a) Palestinian elections “to support the PA’s popular legitimacy in its efforts to crack down” on extremists. These could be general elections or a vote for a legislative council that would prepare for presidential elections once a Palestinian State had been proclaimed. (b) For the elections, Israeli troops in the Occupied Palestinian Territory would withdraw to the positions they held before the current intifada and lift travel restrictions. Israel would recognize the new Palestinian State, which would also immediately be admitted to the UN. The plan did not address the issue of the State’s borders. (c) The Palestinian State and Israel would then sign “a declaration of non-belligerency”, open negotiations and sign a peace accord based on UN Security Council resolutions. The plan won broad support, with none of the EU Ministers expressing any criticism, though some EU countries were believed to be skeptical of the elections fearing that extremists could win the polls. Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Piqué, the meeting chairman, said it would be developed further in another Foreign Ministers meeting on 18 February and a mid-March European summit in Barcelona. Also at the meeting, Italy called for an international peace conference and a reconstruction plan for the Palestinian territories, while the Spanish EU presidency submitted a document for discussion, saying it was not realistic just to build on the Oslo agreements and new initiatives were needed. (AP, Reuters, WAFA)

IDF troops, backed by tanks and APCs, staged a house-by-house search in the village of Tammoun looking for militants connected to the killing on 6 February of three Israelis in the “Hamra” settlement, about 10km south from Tammoun. Clashes with stone-throwing Palestinians erupted in the village and witnesses said troops shot and wounded two teenage brothers who were taken to a hospital in nearby Nablus. Military sources and Israel public radio reported 15 to 25 Palestinians arrested. (AFP, Reuters)

The US and had Israel agreed to set up a joint commission as the first step towards providing international aid to the population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Israeli public radio reported. The report said Prime Minister Sharon had submitted two plans to US officials, one short-term and the other long-term. The former reportedly consisted of lifting the blockade on areas where calm had been restored, while the latter was a kind of “Marshall plan” spreading aid to the Palestinian population over several years, with funds provided by the private sector worldwide, the radio added. The joint commission was due to examine the feasibility of this project. (AFP)

10

Three IDF tanks and tens of military vehicles crossed some 500 metres into Nablus, triggering a gunfight. Seven Palestinians were injured, Palestinian security officials said. The IDF withdrew after arresting two men. One Palestinian died of a heart attack when besieged in his house by Israeli forces. In a separate attack, two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the street near the gates of the IDF southern command HQ in Beersheba, killing two and wounding five people before being shot dead. Israeli security sources believed the attackers came from a village in the southern West Bank, and most of their victims were believed to be soldiers on a lunch break. Hamas’ military wing, Izzeddin Al-Qassam, took responsibility for the attack. (AFP, Reuters, WAFA)

A number of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, landing east of kibbutz Sa’ad and near moshav Shuva, causing no damage. IDF investigation determined that these were the newer Qassam-2 rockets. Following the Palestinian rocket attack, the IDF split the Gaza Strip at two points: at “Netzarim” junction and in the area of the “Gush Katif” settlement block. Israeli warplanes launched a rocket attack at the Ansar-2 police complex near Chairman Arafat’s residence and HQ in Gaza City, already seriously damaged in December. Palestinian hospital sources said three civilians and seven members of the security forces had been wounded, none of them seriously. Helicopter gunships launched rocket attacks at the northern Gaza Strip. Palestinians said a compound on the Gaza beachside and stores, a house and an empty kindergarten in Jabalia had been hit, as well as the house of the Jordanian representative to the PA. Two local UNSCO employees had been wounded in the raid and their office damaged. UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen released a statement calling the attack “utterly unacceptable” and expressing “outrage that Israel deployed bombs of heavy tonnage in such close proximity to civilian areas and UN facilities.” The IDF spokesman expressed regret for the injury of the UN workers. (AP, Arutz 7, BBC, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

LAW stated in its press release it had positive information that a 14-year-old Palestinian, shot dead by Israeli police in connection with the stabbing of a woman in Jerusalem on 8 February, had been murdered in cold blood, and demanded an independent inquiry. An Israeli expert categorically rejected the possibility that the bullet had been fired from a weapon at point-blank range. (Ha’aretz, LAW)

Israel’s Minister of Housing and Construction Natan Sharansky confirmed reports that his office had been in the habit of officially informing US Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer of planned construction projects in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Mr. Sharansky expected most crises pertaining to settlement construction to be avoided by this policy since he operated with the awareness that, while the US was not particularly pleased by construction, it was more upset by the feeling of being kept in the dark and not by the actual construction. Mr. Sharansky further saw in the policy of informing the Ambassador in advance a clear message to the US that Israel was operating within announced guidelines of not creating new settlements and only building to accommodate “natural growth.” (Arutz 7)

11

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

Israeli fighter jets and Apache helicopters launched a rocket attack at Al-Saraya Public Security Directorate compound in the centre of Gaza City, housing Force-17 guards, an office of the military intelligence and a jail, Palestinian officials said. Witnesses said the police had released prisoners from the compound during the strike, which came at a time of changeover between morning and afternoon shifts at nearby schools, and streets were crowded with schoolchildren. According to Palestinian hospital officials, at least 37 Palestinians had been injured, four of them seriously. Separately, a Palestinian shot in the head outside his shop in Rafah last week by Israeli forces had died of his injuries, Palestinian officials at Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital said. (AFP, Reuters, WAFA)

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US was “deeply troubled” by the upsurge in violence in the region. “Though we understand the need for Israel to take steps to ensure its self-defence, we’re seriously concerned about Israeli attacks over the past several days on PA facilities, particularly in areas that are heavily populated by civilians… Attacks such as these are counterproductive to efforts to reduce the violence and restore calm,” Mr. Boucher said. (AFP)

Israeli forces handed out demolition summons to Palestinian house owners near the settlement road in Beit Taamir, southeast of Bethlehem. (WAFA)

12

The Palestinian leadership condemned the “savage Israeli attacks” on Palestinian targets and warned that “the destructive war launched by Israel against our people will undoubtedly spread to strike security and stability in the whole region”, a statement carried by WAFA said. “The international community should understand that our people will not renounce any of their rights under the pressure of Israeli aggression, whatever the sacrifices”, the statement added. (AFP)

In remarks before the Senate Budget Committee, Secretary of State Powell said that on 10 February he had received a “somewhat positive” letter from Chairman Arafat on the “Karine A” arms shipment affair and he was examining it. On 11 February State Department spokesman Richard Boucher had welcomed Mr. Arafat’s “positive letter”, which had been delivered to Secretary of State Powell through the US Consul-General in Jerusalem, and had noted that “Actions must follow words and we hope now to see strong, resolute, and irreversible action by Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority along the lines that he indicated in the letter”. Although Mr. Boucher had declined to detail the contents of the letter, another senior State Department official had been quoted as saying that the letter went beyond standard denials and indicated that Chairman Arafat was taking actions with regard to any possible arms smuggling or for that matter any form of military or arms relationship between the PA and Iran. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

A Palestinian policeman was killed in a firefight, which erupted when Israeli troops entered the Palestinian Area “A” town of Halhul, north of Hebron, in what Israeli public radio said was an operation to arrest Palestinian activists. The IDF issued a statement saying that “an armed terrorist” had been killed in an exchange of fire in Halhul and two assault rifles had been found near his body. One militant linked to the Fatah and another from Islamic Jihad had been arrested. According to witnesses, the Israeli troops destroyed three small buildings and damaged several cars in the area before withdrawing. One of the buildings razed housed a factory producing home-made rocket launchers, Israeli radio reported. In another raid, the IDF said it had arrested 10 Palestinians in an area under its security control near Ramallah. (AFP, Reuters)

Referring to a plan worked out by himself and Palestinian Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei, Foreign Minister Peres said it contained three stages, starting with a ceasefire, moving to mutual recognition between Israel and a Palestinian State, and ending with an agreement on the borders of the new State. He said he envisaged negotiations on the terms of Palestinian statehood to take a year and implementation a further 12 months. The new State would initially cover the territory currently under full or partial PA control, which would amount to about two-thirds of the Gaza Strip and 40 per cent of the West Bank. In the third stage of the plan the issue of borders would be negotiated on the basis of UN resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). Mr. Peres said he was confident the plan would be approved by the Israeli Labour Party and other parties would study it. (AP, BBC)

“I think we are united in the belief that a two-State solution between Palestinians and Israelis is the only solution which can bring lasting peace to the peoples concerned”, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told a forum of more than 40 Foreign Ministers from EU and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) countries convened by the Turkish Government in Istanbul in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks in the US under the theme “civilization and harmony”. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi for his part called on the EU to put more pressure on Israel to stop the violence against the Palestinian people. Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al-Thani, Foreign Minister of Qatar, currently holding the OIC presidency, said there must be an equitable solution for the Palestinians and their “desire to rid themselves of foreign domination can in no way be described as terrorism”. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

A 42-year-old Palestinian woman had died of a heart attack at an Israeli checkpoint on her way to hospital in Gaza City, Palestinian medical sources said. She was riding a donkey cart and was trying to circumvent an IDF checkpoint near the “Netzarim” settlement, south of Gaza City. Upon hearing warning shots fired by the Israeli troops guarding the checkpoint, she fell off the cart and collapsed, a doctor from the Gaza City Shifa hospital told AFP. The doctor added that 150 Palestinian adults suffering from serious illnesses and 40 children suffering from malnutrition and anaemia had been scheduled to receive treatment during the day but could not come from the Gaza Strip’s middle area to the hospital due to the Israeli closure. He also said that several ambulances had been turned away by the IDF at the “Netzarim” checkpoint. (AFP)

Speaking in New York, at the opening of the 2002 session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, inter alia, that “the virtual house arrest imposed on President Arafat should be lifted” and noted that “making progress on security-related issues alone, without addressing the occupation, will not bring lasting security”, stressing that it was “vital that all aspects” of the Tenet understandings and the Mitchell recommendations “should be advanced as a package”. (Reuters, UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/News/ossg/latestsm.htm)

In Washington US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the firing of the Qassam-2 rockets on 10 February by Palestinian militants was “deeply troubling” and that Chairman Arafat “had to act now to halt this kind of dangerous and provocative escalation.” Mr. Boucher also said that the US was “seriously concerned about Israeli attacks over the past several days on Palestinian Authority facilities, particularly in areas … heavily populated by civilians”, adding that “attacks such as these [were] counterproductive to efforts to reduce violence and restore calm.” (Reuters)

13

In a joint statement adopted in Istanbul, Foreign Ministers from the EU and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) “underlined that for peace, stability and harmony to prevail, the Middle East conflict must be settled in a just and comprehensive manner and in accordance with international law and the relevant Security Council resolutions. In this context, the ‘two state’ solution would contribute to bring peace and security to the peoples concerned.” (www.europa-eu-un.org)

The IDF had made incursions into the Palestinian-controlled villages of Deir el-Balah in central Gaza, and into Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia further north, in response to the launch of two Qassam-2 rockets by Hamas on 10 February, the IDF said in a statement. Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner called the missile launches a very serious escalation. Palestinian security officials said three policemen had been killed in Deir el-Balah when an Israeli bulldozer had destroyed their post. IDF sources said soldiers had shot at the men after they had aimed their guns at the troops. The IDF had shot dead two more policemen in an exchange of fire in Beit Hanoun, hospital officials said. The IDF had also demolished three Palestinian security posts in Deir el-Balah overnight, Palestinian sources said. At least 10 Palestinians had been arrested in the raids. The IDF said it had pulled back from Deir el-Balah and Beit Lahia, and later also from Beit Hanoun. PA Gaza Security Chief General Abdel Razek Al-Majaida said the “reoccupation of the northern Gaza Strip sabotage[d] Palestinian, international and Arab efforts to restore calm”. Four IDF tanks and two bulldozers had rolled more than one kilometre into the Maghazi refugee camp near Deir el-Balah, Palestinian security officials said. There were no initial reports of shooting or injuries. An armed Palestinian was killed near the settlement of “Morag” in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli military radio said that an army unit had spotted four armed Palestinians approaching the settlement and had opened fire, killing one of them, while the others appeared to have escaped. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters, XINHUA)

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, in a statement from Geneva, after a meeting with a delegation of Arab ambassadors to the UN, said she followed “with ever deepening concern the deteriorating human rights situation affecting the whole population in the occupied Palestinian territories and the worsening human insecurity in Israel, as a result of suicide bombings and other attacks”. Ms. Robinson also called on the Israeli Government to end Chairman Arafat’s “house arrest” in Ramallah, adding that colleagues of hers who had just visited the region had seen first hand the “ongoing use of excessive force and other collective punishments such as restrictions of movement.” (AFP, DPA)

Visiting British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told a press conference after a two-hour meeting with Chairman Arafat in Ramallah that the Israeli “house arrest” of Mr. Arafat was “unacceptable”. Mr. Straw said he had discussed with the Chairman “further steps that should be taken in the area of the occupied territories to deal with the extremists who undermine the vision of peace for the whole land”. He had also reiterated in front of Chairman Arafat what he had earlier said after meeting with Foreign Minister Peres that the PA should “do more” to crack down on Palestinian extremists in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Mr. Straw added that suicide bombers undermined the possibility of a political process and therefore there had to be an end to violence and a return to the negotiating table. (AFP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

Secretary of State Powell told a House of Representatives subcommittee that Chairman Arafat had written him “a letter three days ago on the ‘Karine A’ accepting responsibility, not personal responsibility, but as Chairman of the Palestinian Authority”. (AFP, Reuters)

14

Palestinian Council Speaker, Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) said senior PA officials would not meet with Prime Minister Sharon again, as long as “the aggressive Israeli policy” towards the PA and Chairman Arafat continued. Abu Ala also criticized comments by Israeli leaders calling for Chairman Arafat to be replaced, saying they were irresponsible. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Agreements recorded in a non-paper prepared by EU Middle East Envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos and printed for the first time in Ha’aretz, showed substantial progress made between Israelis and Palestinians during negotiations in Taba in January 2001. The introduction to the document noted that although the paper had no official status, it had been acknowledged by the parties as being a relatively fair description of the outcome of the negotiations on the permanent status issues in Taba. The Israelis had agreed that the 1967 borders, in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 242 (1967), would be the basis for the border between Israel and a future Palestinian State. Ha’aretz said a map presented by the Palestinians proposed they would get 96.9 per cent of the West Bank, whereas Israel proposed 94 per cent. Israel would annex the remainder, allowing some main settlement blocks to continue to exist, and would compensate with territorial exchanges. The parties had essentially agreed that Israel would evacuate Gaza. The parties had agreed that Jerusalem would be an open city, whose eastern part would be called Al-Quds and would be the capital of Palestine. The Palestinians had agreed that most of the Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty, and both sides had agreed to a division of the Old City. “Both sides were close to accepting [former President] Clinton’s ideas regarding Palestinian sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif”, Ha’aretz quoted the document as saying. Israel would have sovereignty over the Western Wall. Regarding the refugees, the parties had agreed that a just resolution of the problem had to lead to implementation of General Assembly resolution 194. There had been no agreement on the number of refugees that would be allowed to enter Israel. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

Following is the text of the press statement on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, made by UN Security Council President Adolfo Aguilar Zinser (Mexico):

Following a meeting between UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior in New York, the spokesman for the Secretary-General Fred Eckhard said Mr. Annan had discussed with Mr. Melchior the latest peace plan put forward by Foreign Minister Peres and had said “he would encourage Mr. Peres in his efforts, despite widespread scepticism at this time”. The Secretary-General continued “to try and encourage what he calls the ‘Quartet’ – which includes the US, the European Union, the Russian Federation, as well as the UN – to put their combined weight behind any serious effort to move towards a long-term solution in the Middle East”, as, in his assessment, “the Palestinians and the Israelis, left to themselves, would just continue on a spiral of violence”, therefore “the international community must step in”. While calling for “fresh thinking, creative thinking”, Mr. Annan continued “to emphasize the Mitchell plan as the best path to a ceasefire, which of course is the first step towards resumption of negotiations”, Mr. Eckhard added. (UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news)

15

Just after dawn, Israeli tanks backed by helicopters raided the Palestinian villages of Saida and Jaba in the northern West Bank, killing one man and arresting several others in what the IDF said was a sweep for militants involved in attacks on Israelis. They also demolished a house in Saida that reportedly belonged to an Islamic Jihad militant. Later a wall damaged by the Israeli forces collapsed on the commander of the “Duvdevan” elite IDF unit, which was searching in the village for militants, and killed him. The raids followed a Palestinian ambush the previous night on a Jewish settler convoy in the Gaza Strip that resulted in the destruction of a Merkava-3 tank through an explosion that split the tank apart and killed three of its crew members, wounding the fourth. The latter attack was claimed by a coalition of militant groups calling itself the Salahuddin Brigade, as a reprisal for the killing of five Palestinian policemen in Israeli incursions in the Gaza Strip earlier in the week. At least six Israeli tanks, three armoured bulldozers and jeeps reportedly destroyed several houses, a police position and at least 100 hectares (247 acres) of Palestinian farmland near the “Netzarim” settlement, south of Gaza City, close to where the deadly attack on the Israeli tank had taken place the previous night. Later on, and again in apparent retaliation for the attack on the IDF tank, an Israeli F-16 warplane launched missiles at the headquarters of Palestinian public security in the Jabalia refugee camp, killing one policeman and injuring several more people, including a four-year-old girl. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

“The terror must be stopped and we must find ways back to the negotiating table”, visiting German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told reporters after his meeting with Foreign Minister Peres. Referring to the peace plan drafted by Messrs Peres and Qurei Mr. Fischer said it was “a very good plan which we will be examining very carefully”. For his part, Mr. Peres said he hoped a “consensus” could be reached about the plan and again called on Chairman Arafat to “establish his authority” and prevent attacks by militant groups. At an open lecture at Tel Aviv University the previous day, Mr. Fischer had said he did not “see a real alternative to what was negotiated at Camp David, within the Clinton parameters, and at Taba” and he did not see a military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The security Israel needs cannot be forced into existence - it is dependent on peace. In order to break free of the vicious circle, a political approach is needed”, he had added. (AFP, DPA)

“The Israeli Government should lift the blockades, as well as the restrictions of all kinds placed on the Palestinian people and on representatives of the Palestinian Authority”, a joint statement issued in Paris by the French and Russian Foreign Ministers, Messrs Védrine and Ivanov, said. “It should re-establish the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority’s freedom of movement”, the statement added and urged the two sides to return to the negotiating table. “To eradicate terrorism, create the conditions for security and build peace it is necessary to have close cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, headed by its legitimate leader Yasser Arafat”, the statement noted. The two Foreign Ministers also called on the PA to do “everything possible to dismantle terrorist networks, and to arrest and prosecute the authors of terrorist acts”. (AFP, DPA)

16

Israeli war planes had launched an air strike on the Palestinian Public Security compound in Jabalia, killing one security officer and wounding more than thirty others, four of them critically, eyewitnesses and security officials said. IDF troops backed by tanks, military vehicles and bulldozers had also raided the Bureij refugee camp south of Gaza City, killing three Palestinians, among them two teenagers, and wounding more than ten others, one of whom eventually died from his wounds. At least 20 IDF tanks and APCs backed by helicopter gunships had moved into the Gaza valley area. The IDF troops had also moved into the Zeitun area of Gaza City, destroying the Palestinian military intelligence headquarters, had re-entered the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, for the third time this week, and had launched an incursion into the village of Juhr al-Dik, located close to the “Netzarim” settlement. Israeli helicopter gunships had fired air-to-surface missiles at the Al-Mukata’a security compound in Nablus, setting several buildings ablaze. In reaction, the Palestinian leadership warned that Israeli “aggression” would not ensure Israel’s security but would lead to more violence. (AFP, WAFA)

A Hamas member had left the Jenin refugee camp elementary school, where he taught, and was walking near a produce market in Jenin when a car parked nearby exploded. The massive explosion, which occurred in a crowded area in the city center, immediately killed the man and injured at least two others. Palestinian security officials suspected that an Israeli drone or helicopter seen in the air had triggered the bomb. (AFP, WAFA)

Ending a four-day Middle East tour, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer met with Chairman Arafat in Ramallah. “For as long as we have elected leaders on both sides, we will continue to support them and to work with them,” Mr. Fischer said during a joint press conference afterwards. (AFP, DPA)

17

A Palestinian policeman died of the wounds he had sustained when IDF shelled the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza Strip. (WAFA)

18

Israeli undercover troops entered the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, killing a woman when she tried to alert other residents and a man in the ensuing firefight, and wounding six more, witnesses said. (AP, LAW, WAFA)

The EU Foreign Ministers promised continuing efforts to end a year and a half of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed but remained divided on details of a new peace plan for the region, with Germany, the Netherlands and Britain insisting that security issues must be tackled before the bloc could hope to make progress on French proposals for Palestinian elections and an early declaration of an independent Palestinian State. (DPA, Reuters)

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the plan formulated with Abu Ala Ahmed Qurei was not ready for presentation to the Government and that he and Abu Ala were still working to further develop the joint proposal. Meretz MK Yossi Sarid called the plan “a pathetic one that served Peres’ legitimizing his remaining in the Government.” (AFP, Arutz 7, Reuters)

Thomas Friedman reported in the New York Times that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah had offered full diplomatic relations (normalization) with Israel in return for a total Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. (The New York Times)

The Israeli High Court, petitioned by residents and by Hadash MK Barakeh, issued a temporary order to the IDF to halt the demolition of 20 Palestinian houses close to the Kissufim Junction and the stretch of the road to the “Gush Katif” block of settlements where a settler and two soldiers had been killed earlier in the day. By that time four houses had already been destroyed. (Arutz 7, BBC, Reuters)

19

The (Israeli) Council for Peace and Security, made up of 1,200 retired Israeli security officials, published a position paper calling Israel’s military control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip “a strategic and moral liability for the State of Israel.” The group proposed a unilateral withdrawal from all the occupied territories except greater Jerusalem, the Jordan River Valley area and several major blocks of settlements, urged the dismantling of 40 to 50 isolated settlements, and called for the immediate resumption of negotiations with the PA. The Council, formed in 1988 during the first intifada, had been a key supporter of negotiating an end to Israeli occupation before the official start of peace talks in the early 1990s. (AP, KRTBN, Reuters)

IDF troops and tanks shelled the Qizan al-Najjar neighbourhood of Khan Yunis, close to the “Morag” settlement, killing a 14-year-old girl, a 37-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man, hospital sources in the town said. Israeli warplanes destroyed security buildings in Al-Tira neighborhood of Ramallah and in the Rafah refugee camp. Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian they said was armed and was trying to infiltrate the “Morag” settlement in the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops also blocked Gaza’s main north-south road to Palestinian traffic, effectively dividing the strip into three parts. Palestinian security sources said a helicopter gunship fired at least one missile at a Hamas office that served as its media centre on the first floor of a four-story residential building in Jabalia refugee camp, killing two Palestinians. The missile hit between the afternoon and morning shifts at a nearby school, meaning many pupils were entering or leaving; a nine-year-old girl was critically wounded with shrapnel and five other children were seriously hurt. Palestinian gunmen shot dead six Israeli soldiers when they ambushed a military checkpoint west of Ramallah; the attackers then fled. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack. “Due to the murderous attack tonight west of Ramallah in which six Israelis were killed, the army has banned Palestinian travel on the roads between the Palestinian cities Ramallah, Qalqilya, Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm,” the IDF said in a statement. It said travel would only be allowed for what it called humanitarian cases. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Financial Times, The Jerusalem Post, LAW, Reuters, WAFA)

The Palestinian General Bureau of Economy stated that due to the Israeli closures and destruction in the Palestinian areas the losses of the Palestinian economy had exceeded US$7 billion, the poverty level had risen from 22 per cent to 64.9 per cent and unemployment had reached 38 per cent. At the same time, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics reaffirmed a preliminary estimate that Israel’s GDP had contracted 0.5 per cent in 2001, the largest annual contraction since 1953. By comparison, Israel’s GDP had risen by 6.4 per cent in 2000. Israeli officials also reported unemployment climbing over the 10% per cent mark in the last quarter of 2001, reaching an unprecedented 10.2 per cent. (Arutz 7, Reuters, WAFA)

Chairman Arafat, speaking at a joint news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher, said that despite the Israeli reprisals, “we are still committed to the peace process.” Mr. Muasher criticized the Israeli military escalation in West Bank and Gaza, calling it unhelpful to peace. (AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Two IDF reservists were sentenced to 14 days in jail for refusing to serve in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The two were not signatories of the reservists’ letter of 25 January. (Arutz 7)

According to a public opinion poll conducted by Birzeit University’s Development Studies Programme between 7 and 9 February on a random sample of 1,198 adults in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 52 per cent supported Chairman Arafat, as compared to 38 per cent in October 2001. At least 63 per cent of Palestinians said their homes had been raided and searched by the IDF, 65 per cent said roadblocks prevented them from reaching their destination and 51 per cent said they were humiliated and abused at checkpoints. In addition, 42 per cent said they had been physically abused, 20 per cent said their homes and other property had been damaged by Israeli military action, 18 per cent said they had been arrested or detained, 16 per cent said Israel had confiscated their property or land and 15 per cent said they had been injured by Israeli forces. Some 66 per cent of Palestinian children had suffered, or were still suffering, from trauma and stress due to the actions of the Israeli army or settlers and a similar number of people reported an increase in the level of violence among children and young people, as a result of the current political situation. However, while 75 per cent of those surveyed said they only knew Israelis as occupiers (while 21 per cent knew them as employers), 77 per cent believed Israelis and Palestinians had the right to live in peace. Furthermore, 73 per cent said that once a Palestinian State was established, it would be vital for both sides to work towards coexistence and peace. Some 70 per cent favoured continuing the peace talks until a final agreement. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

20

The IDF launched a series of retaliatory strikes in response to the killing of six soldiers the previous day west of Ramallah. Nine Palestinians were killed in Nablus, six of them by shelling and two, including a youth, in clashes with Israeli soldiers. In Ramallah, one security man was killed at a Palestinian outpost, while a second man died as a result of shelling. In a pre-dawn attack, F-16 warplanes, Apache helicopters and naval boats attacked Chairman Arafat’s Gaza City HQ, killing four Force-17 members, and wounding 10 others. The IDF launched five hours of strikes at Gaza City. Palestinians said the IDF had also hit the Ramallah compound housing Mr. Arafat’s Ramallah office. Following the attacks, the Palestinian leadership issued a statement saying, “our people will continue their steadfast resistance until the military occupation and settlers are kicked out, to ensure the freedom, independence and dignity of our people”. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon met with his security cabinet to discuss further Israeli responses to the latest Palestinian attacks, Israel Radio reported. Following the meeting, Mr. Sharon said he would not lead Israel into war, but had agreed to scale up military operations, while rejecting proposals to re-occupy Palestinian-controlled land or topple the PA. (AFP, DPA)

Chairman Arafat’s Advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh said “the Palestinian leadership [would] go to the [UN] Security Council to call for a special emergency meeting to stop Israeli attacks.” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told a daily news briefing that “after the violence of the past days, it [was] legitimate that the Security Council of the UN raise and debate the situation.” In Madrid, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Piqué, whose country currently held the Presidency of the EU, said the request “warrant[ed] consideration” but he stressed that he had not yet consulted EU partners on the matter. Meanwhile, the EU Spanish Presidency expressed its “indignation” over what it called “terrorism and violence” in the Middle East and called on Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations “to solve a conflict which does not have a military solution”. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Israeli helicopters had fired on the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, while four IDF tanks had moved some two kilometers into the area, wounding at least two Palestinians, according to Palestinian sources. (AFP)

According to Petra, Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb, while meeting with visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, urged “the international community and particularly the US and the EU” to step up diplomatic efforts to stop Israeli attacks on the Palestinian people. For his part, Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher warned that the violence would fuel greater instability, adding that the US and the world community “should not only focus on the security track of the crisis”. He was speaking after also meeting with Mr. Petersen, as well as with senior US State Department official Richard Haass (AFP)

Foreign Minister Peres said he viewed positively the proposal made by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah for the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the Arab countries and Israel, in return for a total Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, but said an end to “terrorism” was the key to reaching peace. The UAE and Bahrain were reported to support the Saudi proposal and EU officials welcomed the proposal as a good initiative. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

21

Israeli helicopter gunships and warships attacked Palestinian security targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in a new wave of reprisal. A missile narrowly missed Chairman Arafat’s Ramallah office for the second successive night, while the Voice of Palestine radio-television headquarters in Gaza City were destroyed by Israeli forces in tanks and armoured personnel carriers. Palestinian doctors in Gaza said six people, including at least one gunman, had been killed and about 40 people wounded in the Israeli raids, which began shortly after midnight. In a second wave, helicopters fired missiles at buildings used by military intelligence and the Force-17 guard in Rafah in southern Gaza, and struck a Force-17 headquarters in Ramallah and police offices in Nablus. Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian gunman who attacked a checkpoint near Baqa al-Sharqiya, north of Tulkarm. The fate of a second gunman involved in the raid was not immediately known. A Palestinian died after being shot in the chest by Israeli soldiers while walking to his car in the crowded shopping centre of Hebron. Tens of thousands of Palestinians marched in funerals in at least three towns in the Gaza Strip, many calling for revenge. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Chairman Arafat’s advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh condemned the “barbarous aggression”, which he said was “a total war launched by Israel to destroy the PA and the peace process”. He called on the international community, in particular the US, to “act swiftly and effectively to stop Israel’s escalation and crimes”. (AFP)

PA police arrested in Nablus three men suspected of involvement in the assassination last October of Israeli Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze’evy. All three were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), two gunmen and the man who had allegedly sent them, the head of the PFLP’s armed wing, the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades. Prime Minister Sharon’s spokesman Ranaan Gissin said there had to be “real proof” that the perpetrators and the planners had been arrested and brought to justice or extradited to Israel before there could be any change in the restrictions imposed on Chairman Arafat. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

In a telephone conversation initiated by Prime Minister Sharon, President Mubarak had underlined the “need to put an end to mutual acts of vengeance between Palestinians and Israelis” and stressed that Israel should halt military operations against the Palestinian people, MENA reported. In Jerusalem, Mr. Sharon’s office said the two leaders had “discussed the situation in the region and measures to avoid an escalation of violence and of reaching peace”. (AFP, DPA)

WAFA quoted Chairman Arafat’s advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh as saying that a message from President Bush had been handed over to Mr. Arafat in Ramallah by the US Consul General in Jerusalem Ronald Schlicher. In the message, sent on the occasion of the Muslim feast of Eid Al-Adha, President Bush said he hoped peace and security would be restored in the region and affirmed the US commitment to peace in the Middle East. (AFP)

The EU was updating its list of EU-financed projects hit by Israeli military action in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, European Commission external affairs spokesman Gunnar Wiegand told reporters. The Spanish EU Presidency had given the Israeli Government on 29 January a list of projects worth €17.3 million (US$14.9 million) damaged or destroyed by Israeli forces. “It is currently being updated in view of the latest events”, including a strike on television facilities in Gaza that were funded by Denmark, the spokesman said. (AFP)

Chinese President Jiang Zemin had told visiting President Bush the US was “key” to solving the Middle East question and should work towards resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said. “China hopes the US will urge Israel and Palestine to resume their dialogue at an early date”, Mr. Kong added, noting that President Jiang had restated China’s position on the Middle East in his talks with President Bush, namely that “the key to the Mideast question is the Palestinian question, and that the legitimate rights and interests of the Palestinians should be restored” and “the Israelis should return the occupied territories”. (AFP)

Foreign Minister Peres called on Chairman Arafat to become more involved in peace efforts and said he had reached a preliminary agreement with Palestinian officials about the immediate proclamation of a Palestinian State on the areas currently controlled by the Palestinian Authority, 42 percent of the West Bank and 80 percent of the Gaza Strip. Mr. Peres said the aim should be to establish a ceasefire as soon as possible, which could be based on new security meetings between Palestinians and Israelis. Speaking at a joint press conference with his Spanish counterpart Josep Piqué in Madrid, where he was seeking the support of the current EU Presidency, Mr. Peres said that his peace plan did not have the approval of the Government of Prime Minister Sharon or the Israeli Knesset and lacked the approval of the Palestinian Authority. “If the proclamation of a Palestinian State serves to put the peace process onto the rails, we could all consider immediately recognizing it,” Mr. Piqué said, stressing that a Palestinian State should not be proclaimed in a “unilateral and aggressive” fashion, but should serve to re-launch the peace process. However, it was first necessary to create conditions for a ceasefire and to make it possible for Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, Mr. Pique noted, adding that the Arab countries should simultaneously make progress towards recognizing the State of Israel. During the press conference, Mr. Peres also said that it was “for the Palestinians to elect their leaders. It [was] not for Israel to dictate the Palestinians whom to elect as their leaders.” Mr. Peres told reporters that he would remain a member of Prime Minister Sharon’s Government, as he had more influence working from within the Government. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The Iraeli State Prosecutor's Office, acting on behalf of the IDF, informed the Israeli High Court that the army had decided at this stage not to demolish houses on the Kissufim road in the Gaza Strip, although the clearing of crops in the area would continue. The Court, petitioned by residents and Hadash MK Barakeh, had earlier issued a temporary order to the IDF to halt the demolition. Michael Blatt, the State Prosecutor's representative, said this did not preclude a decision in the future to demolish the houses, but the occupants would be given advance warning in such a case, enabling them to raise their objections. He noted, however, that this advance warning would only apply if the buildings were not being used by, for instance, Palestinian gunmen. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which represented the owners of the houses, rejected this final point through its Israeli lawyer, André Rosenthal, contending that the families living in the area could not be held automatically responsible for any alleged shooting nearby and could not have their homes destroyed without any judicial process. At the hearing, three of the justices criticized the demolition of the houses that had taken place before the court handed down the temporary injunction. (Ha’aretz, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights info@pchrgaza.org)

Prime Minister Sharon announced in a nationally televised speech his plan to set up buffer zones between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “We will immediately mark separation areas and put obstacles along them,” he said. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

An agreement to halt most IDF operations in exchange for a Palestinian pledge to try to reduce the violence was reached at a meeting of the Israeli-Palestinian security coordination committee attended by CIA representatives, the first such meeting since 2 February. GSS Chief Avi Dichter and IDF Maj.-Gen. Giora Eiland represented Israel, and Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub, the heads of the PA Preventive Security Service in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, respectively, represented the PA. The meeting had been preceded by several secret meetings between Israeli and Palestinian representatives the previous week, including one in Ramallah between Chairman Arafat and Israeli businessman Yossi Ginossar sent by Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer and Foreign Minister Peres, and another in Tel Aviv between Messrs Ben-Eliezer, Dahlan and Mohammed Rashid. The Israeli promises reportedly included a halt to IDF operations in Area “A”; an end to assassinations of wanted Palestinian suspects, except in the case of “ticking bombs”; a cessation of bombing strikes on PA targets; the removal of some of the roadblocks around Palestinian towns; and a series of measures aimed at easing Palestinian life during the Eid Al-Adha holiday. The latter included allowing some West Bank Palestinians into Jerusalem to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque; releasing Palestinian prisoners nearing the end of their sentences and those convicted or accused only of entering Israel illegally; extending the operating hours of the Rafah border crossing, the Karni cargo terminal and similar cargo terminals in the West Bank; allowing family visits between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, contingent on approval by the Israeli security services; and permitting more Palestinian merchants and businessmen to enter Israel. Minister Ben-Eliezer ordered the IDF to act with maximum restraint, operating only in case of immediate necessity. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

Israeli troops had withdrawn from positions occupied one week ago east of the Bureij refugee camp, on the Farah Abu Madin heights near the “Kfar Darom” settlement, Israel Radio reported, but still remained in positions around Beit Lahiya. Col. Khaled Abu Ola, a Palestinian security official liaising with the IDF, said in Gaza City that the tanks had pulled back only 400 metres from Bureij and remained in Area “A.” (AFP, DPA)

Addressing the UN Security Council on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed alarm at escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence; welcomed “new thinking and imaginative new ideas” currently being put forward; noted that security could not be dealt with in isolation of political and economic issues; and said the lack of mutual confidence between the parties made a third-party role “essential”. (Reuters, UN News Centre)

22

The head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Doron Almog, said that buffer zones referred to by Prime Minister Sharon the previous day were in fact already in place in the Gaza Strip and that the Prime Minister appeared to have in mind the West Bank when he spoke of creating such zones. He said the Israeli army had already defined as “buffer zones” the Gaza Strip border area with Israel, corridors leading to settlements and strips of land around settlement blocks and around separate settlements within those blocks. He added the zones had special security measures, including fences, sonars, observation posts. The IDF personnel manning the buffer zones had to follow special rules of engagement regarding opening fire. Israeli security sources quoted by Israel Radio said that a buffer zone in the West Bank would run all the way from the Gilboa hills, near Jenin on the northern West Bank border, to Hebron in the south and would be several kilometres wide. The zone would contain roadblocks, trenches, minefields, foot and vehicle patrols and eventually a fence. However, IDF Chief of General Staff Shaul Mofaz told Radio Shalom the buffer zones were not a “border”. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli motorist and a supermarket customer shot dead a suspected Palestinian suicide bomber in the “Efrat” settlement, part of the “Gush Etzion” settlement block, south of Bethlehem. (Reuters)

23

Israeli soldiers in the West Bank had killed an unarmed Palestinian who had run towards their post in the dead of night shouting “Allah Akbar”, the IDF said. Palestinian security sources said Israel had handed the man’s body over to the PA authorities, but gave no other details of the incident near the village of Halhoul. Voice of Palestine Radio said the man had been shot several times in the head. A settler had shot a Palestinian man in the stomach as he and his family were walking near the “Pnei Hever” settlement southeast of Hebron, Palestinian medical and security sources said. (AFP, Reuters)

Israel Radio said Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer had ordered the army to “act with restraint” in the coming days coinciding with the Muslim feast of Eid Al-Adha and the Jewish costume holiday of Purim. (Reuters)

24

The Israeli Security Cabinet, after a three-hour-long discussion, voted overwhelmingly to allow Chairman Arafat to leave his compound, but not the municipal boundaries of Ramallah, despite his ordering the arrest of suspects in the killing of Minister Rechavam Ze’evy. Two of 14 Ministers, National Infrastructures Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Public Security Minister Uzi Landau, abstained. The Cabinet also decided that if Mr. Arafat wanted to move to another part of the Occupied Territory, he had to file a request with Prime Minister Sharon. IDF tanks positioned near Chairman Arafat’s Ramallah offices were to be pulled back to positions outside the city. Foreign Minister Peres spoke with PA officials to explain the Cabinet’s decision. Israel Radio quoted the Palestinian Head of Preventative Security in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed Dahlan, as saying that whoever had decided to keep Chairman Arafat in Ramallah had also effectively decided to cancel the joint Israeli-Palestinian security meeting scheduled for that evening. His counterpart in the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub, called the decision a “stupid” one. PA Minister and senior negotiator Saeb Erakat said the decision was “shameless” and showed the Israeli Government had no peace programme. (Ha’aretz, Reuters, WAFA)

At least 19 Palestinians had been wounded, four of them seriously, when they clashed with Israeli troops in the southern Gaza Strip, a Rafah hospital director said. Medical sources from Rafidia hospital said a 27-year-old Palestinian was on her way to the hospital while in labour, when she was shot and wounded in her back at an IDF roadblock near the village of Hawwara, south of Nablus. There was no immediate threat to her life, the sources added. An unknown assailant had opened fire on a Palestinian passenger bus near Hebron injuring three civilians, including a 12-year-old boy, Palestinian police and hospital sources said. Israeli troops had fired eight bullets at Palestinian Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei’s car at the Kalandia roadblock, outside Ramallah, without causing injury, his office told AFP. Foreign Minister Peres apologized for the incident, although the IDF said Mr. Qurei’s car had approached the checkpoint at “high speed”. Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg also offered his apologies to Mr. Qurei. (AFP, WAFA)

EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana arrived in Tel Aviv for three days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, military and intelligence chiefs, as well as peace activists. “Don’t expect miracles,” Mr. Solana told reporters before leaving on his trip. Speaking at a news conference after meeting Foreign Minister Peres, Mr. Solana said: “The sooner [Chairman Arafat] gets freedom of movement the better.” German Foreign Minister Fischer said during a debate on German ARD public television, that it was “important that President Arafat’s freedom of movement be re-established”. (AFP, Reuters)

25

Ha’aretz reported that the Jerusalem municipality had put forward 17 plans to build 1,500 residential units in areas east of the city, on private land. (Ha’aretz)

A 22-year-old Palestinian, taking his pregnant wife to hospital, was killed at a roadblock near the village of Hawwara, near Nablus. His wife and father were also injured, and his daughter was born shortly afterwards. The IDF said “preliminary” information showed the car had tried to force its way through the roadblock and Israeli soldiers had fired warning shots before shooting at the vehicle. Also, a Palestinian woman had been killed at a checkpoint near Tulkarm after she tried to stab Israeli troops, Israeli public radio reported. Meanwhile, Israeli tanks pulled back from their positions a few hundred metres from Chairman Arafat’s offices to positions just outside Ramallah. (AFP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)

Foreign Minister Peres said a proposal by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to exchange Arab recognition of Israel for an Israeli pullback from territories captured in 1967, announced in a New York Times article on 18 February, was “fascinating”, while Prime Minister Sharon, according to The Jerusalem Post, asked the US to arrange a meeting with the Saudis to discuss it. A spokeswoman for Israeli President Moshe Katzav said he had invited Crown Prince Abdullah to Jerusalem to discuss the Saudi peace proposal and was willing to travel to Saudi Arabia if invited. Although no formal proposal had yet been received, most Arab States had reportedly expressed their backing for the Saudi initiative. The Crown Prince had said he had written a speech along the aforementioned lines and had intended to deliver it to the Arab Summit in Beirut on 27-28 March, but had decided to shelve it due to Prime Minister Sharon’s hard line against the Palestinians. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Following a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in response to a journalist’s question about the serious situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, said the following:

Palestinian gunmen wounded 10 Israelis, 6 of them seriously, during an attack near a bus stop in the settlement of “Neve Yaakov”, north of East Jerusalem. Palestinian gunmen killed two Israelis in an ambush of a civilian convoy travelling between the settlements of “Tekoa” and “Nokdim”, south-east of Bethlehem. A pregnant Israeli woman shot in the stomach during the attack later gave birth to a healthy baby girl. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for both attacks. (AFP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

The US had upgraded the Saudi proposal for Middle East peace from a “minor development” to an “important step”, which needed elaboration. Secretary of State Powell told reporters he had discussed the proposal with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on 24 February and had thanked him for his initiative. Meanwhile, the official Saudi SPA news agency reported that President Bush had telephoned Crown Prince Abdullah for talks on his peace proposal. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

26

Six Palestinians were wounded, one of them seriously, when the IDF opened fire at the Tel al-Sultan neighbourhood near Rafah in the Gaza Strip, medical and security sources said. An 18-year-old Palestinian youth was rushed in serious condition to a hospital in Gaza City for treatment of a bullet wound in the chest after his home in Rafah was hit by machine-gun fire. A 25-year-old woman, her 18-month-old daughter and a nine-year-old relative were wounded when their home was hit both by shell and gunfire. The toddler was treated for a bullet wound to her leg. A Palestinian home in the area caught fire when it was hit by a tank shell, but none of the occupants were injured, security sources said. Meanwhile, Israeli tanks used heavy machine-gun fire on a Palestinian neighbourhood near the “Netzarim” settlement in the central Gaza Strip and in El-Qarara, north of the Khan Yunis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported. Israeli troops at a checkpoint near Tulkarm shot dead a 15-year-old Palestinian girl who tried to attack a soldier with a knife. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

French Foreign Minister Vedriné told LCI TV that the Israeli cabinet decision to ease Chairman Arafat’s confinement in Ramallah was not enough. “He should be able to move freely. This should not even be open to debate. It is a question of principle,” Mr. Vedriné said, adding that “Arafat is being asked to do more to restore security, to reduce violence. He has to have the means to do so.” (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Two Israeli reservists who had been among the 50 officers who on 25 January had announced in an open letter that they would no longer comply with orders to serve in settlement areas, had been sentenced to 28 days imprisonment by a military court, Israeli radio reported. (DPA)

After meeting Prime Minister Sharon in Jerusalem, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told reporters the Prime Minister was interested in the Saudi initiative and was prepared to meet Saudi officials to discuss its details. Israeli government spokesman Raanan Gissin said Mr. Sharon “was always ready to meet with any Arab leader interested in advancing peace”. (AFP, Reuters)

27

Senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials held talks overnight in Tel Aviv. Diplomatic sources said the resumption of US-mediated security talks was a positive sign the two sides were looking for ways to achieve a lasting ceasefire. Israeli Army Radio reported that the parties had decided to meet again soon, despite the wide differences of opinion expressed during the talks. Before the meeting, top Palestinian officials had said they would ask Israel to lift its military blockade of Palestinian areas in accordance with a specific schedule. The Israeli delegation had demanded that the Palestinians put a stop to anti-Israeli attacks, linking any easing of the army blockade to a reduction in the violence, the radio report said. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli troops had shot dead a 25-year-old Palestinian during an exchange of fire at the Balata refugee camp south-east of Nablus, Palestinian security sources said. Several hours later, a Palestinian worker had shot an Israeli factory manager at the Atarot industrial zone north of Jerusalem and had fled the scene, Israeli police said. The killing was later claimed by a Fatah splinter group. Separately, Israeli forces had raided a village under Palestinian control near Hebron overnight, wounding five Palestinians after coming under fire from gunmen, Palestinian security sources said. Troops withdrew about six hours later. Later in the day, Israeli troops had killed three Palestinian infiltrators in a shootout in Israel’s southern Negev desert near Egypt, Israeli security sources said. Two soldiers had been lightly wounded in an exchange of fire with the gunmen, who had penetrated an isolated stretch of border near Mount Ha Arif, south-east of the Israeli town of Mitzpe Ramon. One of the infiltrators had a bomb strapped to his body, Army Radio reported. There had been no immediate claim of responsibility. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The IDF had lifted the curfews on Abu al-Ajeen and Wadi al-Salqa villages, as well as on the Abu Holi neighbourhood, just across the main north-south highway in the central Gaza Strip, imposed earlier in the day, but had occupied a family home to monitor Palestinian movements, Palestinian security officials said. Israeli military sources said they had deployed at the edges of the communities before announcing a curfew to prevent attacks on Israeli traffic on the Kissufim road, where three Israelis had been killed in an ambush on 18 February. (AFP)

Israeli newspapers urged Prime Minister Sharon to take the Saudi peace proposal seriously, despite the outright opposition of other right-wing members of the coalition Government to a full withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. They said the lack of reference to at least two hitherto unbridgeable differences between Israel and the Palestinians, namely the fate of Jerusalem and of Palestinian refugees, made the proposal a positive idea but not a plan. In an editorial addressed to the Prime Minister, Maariv said: “You need to announce that it starts to lead in the right direction after too much time has been wasted upon blood and hatred.” (Reuters)

Speaking on Israeli public radio President Moshe Katsav reiterated his interest in the Saudi peace initiative and said he had proposed discussing it with Crown Prince Abdullah. Mr. Katsav said it was possible the initiative would come to nothing, “because of differences that are too deep”, but noted that the Crown Prince wanted to talk of “a normalization with Israel in the name of the entire Arab world and [Israel] cannot reject his project simply because [Israel has] questions or doubts about it”. The President noted that “in any negotiations, there is a starting point and there can afterwards be concessions, especially if the peace deal in sight is between Israel and the entire Arab world”. Foreign Minister Peres, visiting Paris, told French state television the Saudi idea would be more flexible over Jerusalem and other subjects. He told his television interviewer that under the plan some parts of East Jerusalem would “remain in Israeli hands”. (AFP, DPA)

PA Cabinet Secretary-General Ahmed Abdel Rahman said the Saudi initiative was “the most important one since [the launch of the Middle East peace process in] 1991 because it is a comprehensive one” and covers “all the issues for negotiations for Arabs and Israel”. “Yasser Arafat gives his support to the Saudi initiative, and we believe this peace initiative will protect the Palestinian nation from the danger of Israeli aggression”, he told AFP. Meanwhile, in Cairo, PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told reporters that Prime Minister Sharon was “trying to exploit this initiative for Israel’s sake by presenting it as an initiative aimed at starting negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Israel”. “This will be a victory for the Jewish State and would not offer anything” in exchange to the Arabs, he said, adding that the Arabs should “mobilize to explain to the world ... that [the initiative] stipulates, first and foremost, an Israeli pullout from all occupied Palestinian and Arab territories”. (AFP)

During his meeting with EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana in Jeddah, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah had spoken “about his determination to move forward his initiative of peace. He told Mr. Solana that he wants his initiative to become the initiative of the Arab world. He has asked for the EU help”, Mr. Solana’s spokeswoman Crisitina Gallach said, and suggested that the Crown Prince would present his initiative to the Beirut Arab Summit in late March for adoption by all Arab States. Ms. Gallach said the EU High Representative had expressed during the meeting the full support of the EU for the Saudi proposal and had reiterated the EU position against Chairman Arafat’s confinement. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan said his country “appreciated and supported” the Saudi Crown Prince’s initiative. “We consider the proposal positive and constructive”, he was further quoted as saying. (AFP, DPA)

“We support all initiatives aimed at Middle East peace. We view Saudi Arabia’s plan as a beneficial step”, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Dirioz told a press conference in Ankara. “We hope it will help in overcoming the stalemate in replacing the spiralling violence with dialogue”, he added. (AFP)

28

Five Palestinian police officers were killed in night raids by the IDF on two separate positions around Jenin and a 64-year-old Palestinian civilian died after being shot in the head. Palestinian security sources and hospital officials said a Palestinian gunman was also killed and at least 15 were wounded by Israeli fire at the Balata refugee camp, south-east of Nablus, where Israeli military radio said the IDF were searching for people on their wanted list. Reports said the soldiers moved from home to home by breaking down walls within apartment buildings to avoid the ongoing clashes with armed Palestinians in the street. Palestinians said the IDF was using machine-gun fire from helicopters in the gun battles, while the IDF said Palestinians used explosive devices against them. The IDF said one of its soldiers was killed and two were wounded in the assault on Balata and confirmed its infantry had also attacked the Jenin refugee camp. More than 80 Palestinians were reported wounded in the fighting, which Nablus Governor Mahmoud Al-Aloul called “the fiercest battle since the beginning of the intifada”. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The following statement was made in Berlin by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

Palestinian and Israeli security officials began new talks, after the Palestinians delayed them by two hours to protest the Israeli operations in the West Bank. The meeting took place at the Erez (Beit Hanoun) crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip in the presence of US officials. No statements were issued after the meeting. (AFP, Reuters)

Amnesty International in a statement “renewed its call for human rights to be an integral part of any peace process” and called on the UN Security Council to endorse the dispatch of international observers to monitor human rights abuses in the Middle East. (AFP)

At a press conference, following a ministerial meeting of the EU and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Granada, Spain, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Piqué asked Israel to give Mr. Arafat “all the freedom of movement he need[ed] in order to make a one hundred per cent effort to end the violence on the Palestinian side.” He underlined how important this gesture by Israel would be in enabling Chairman Arafat to attend the meeting of the Arab League on 27 and 28 March in Beirut. Saudi Arabia indicated during the meeting in Granada that it would only agree to discuss the peace plan proposed by Crown Prince Abdullah if Mr. Arafat attended the Beirut Summit. The following joint communiqué was issued after the meeting:
Referring to the Israeli decision to send the IDF into the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the US Administration had been in touch with the Israeli Government “to urge that utmost restraint be exercised in order to avoid harm to the civilian population”. The US respected Israel’s right to self-defence, “but at the same time, it needed to avoid harm to civilians” and “any incursions shouldn’t be made permanent or lengthy”. Mr. Boucher stressed that Chairman Arafat still had to do more to clamp down on violence. Regarding the Saudi peace initiative, Mr. Boucher repeated the US thought it was “a significant positive step, not only in content, but also the fact that it was made” and wanted to keep in touch with the Saudis. To that end, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns had made a quick trip to Riyadh to speak with Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz about the proposal. It was also reported that CIA Director George Tenet was in Saudi Arabia for the same purpose. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

The World Bank approved US$20 million in credit to improve social services in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The money would go into the US$105 million Emergency Services Support Project (ESSP) set up by the PA and would pay for medical and school supplies, solid waste management and water and electricity services, all of which had suffered due to the escalation of conflict. (DPA)
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