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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 October 2001
Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine

Monthly media monitoring review

October 2001


Following recent Israeli-Palestinian security meetings, Israeli Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer had ordered an easing of the blockade on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, according to a statement issued from his office. The text read: “The army has lifted its road blocks around Jericho, and is pulling back its tanks from areas where calm prevails, and there is free movement of traffic on the main road linking Gaza and Rafah”. The statement also said the Minister had ordered the army “to enforce restraint of shooting at the civilian population”. Israeli public radio said the army had pulled its tanks back from positions it had been holding for some three months near Nablus, Qalqilya and Ramallah. (AFP)

The commander of Israel's southern forces, General Doron Almog, held security talks with Palestinian security chiefs from the Gaza Strip, Palestinian and Israeli officials said. The meeting, at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Israel, was part of a series of meetings designed to enforce the agreed ceasefire. (AFP)

Three Palestinian children were injured, one seriously, by Israeli army gunfire aimed at the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. The children were wounded while playing football not far from the “Gush Katif” block of settlements, while there had been no prior incident in the area, according to witnesses. A 13-year-old Palestinian boy was seriously injured when Israeli troops shot him at a roadblock near Ramallah, witnesses said, adding that no shooting or other unrest preceded the incident. (AFP)

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US was “deeply troubled” by renewed violence in the Middle East and demanded Israel and the Palestinians redouble efforts to ensure a fragile ceasefire holds. He called on both sides to renew their commitment to the ceasefire and said the Palestinian Authority “must take sustained and effective steps to pre-empt violence and to arrest those responsible for planning and conducting such acts of violence and terror”, adding that it was “essential that both Palestinians and Israelis avoid actions that jeopardize the reestablishment of direction discussions and do everything possible to restore an atmosphere of calm”. At the same time, Mr. Boucher said, Washington was pleased that a previously scheduled joint security meeting had continued, despite the surge in violence. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

US Secretary of State Powell telephoned Israel’s Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who told Secretary Powell that Israel was making efforts to ensure the ceasefire with the Palestinians was being respected. He said Israel had pulled back its tanks from many positions they had occupied for months and had lifted the blockade of Jericho, according to Israel radio. Chairman Arafat’s Senior Advisor, Nabil Abu Rudeineh told AFP he too had spoken to Mr. Powell late in the day, telling him that the US had to put pressure on Israel to end its “aggression against Palestinians” and totally lift the blockade. Israeli roadblocks were still in place around Jericho an AFP reporter on the scene said, although troops were allowing Palestinian to pass. Israeli radio said Mr. Ben-Eliezer had reproached the PA for not arresting dozens alleged “terrorists.” (AFP)


“Before the terrorist attacks on September 11, the Bush Administration was on the verge of announcing a Middle East diplomatic initiative that would include US support for the creation of a Palestinian State”, The New York Times and The Washington Post announced. It added that President Bush was still considering making a forceful declaration on resolving the Middle East conflict, but that the timing has not yet been decided. In his remarks in the Oval Office in a photo opportunity with congressional leaders, President Bush said that “the idea of a Palestinian State has always been part of a vision, so long as the right to Israel to exist is respected.” (AFP, Ha’aretz, the New York Times and The Washington Post, Reuters)

Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a speech at the annual conference of his ruling Labour Party in Brighton said that “Palestinians must have justice, the chance to prosper and in their own land, as equal partners with Israel,” adding that at the same time “the State of Israel must be given recognition by all; freed from terror; know that it is accepted as part of the future of the Middle East, not its very existence under threat.” (AFP, Ha’aretz)

The IDF fired tear gas and rubber bullets at a peaceful demonstration of Palestinian students protesting the blockade of a road leading to the West Bank university of Birzeit. Around 2,000 Palestinians, mostly students and staff of the university on the edge of Ramallah, had gathered near the Israeli roadblock to protest against the IDF’s restrictions on their movement. Palestinian media reports said the restrictions had led to a pregnant Palestinian woman giving birth at the same Surda checkpoint while heading for Ramallah hospital. Local residents also joined the rally against restrictions on the road, which is used by thousands of Palestinians. Reports from the scene said the clashes began after the Israelis fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at the protesters, who responded by throwing rocks at the soldiers. At least ten Palestinians were injured by bullets, none of them seriously, and a further 20 people suffered tear gas inhalation. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Saudi Arabia has completed the payment of US$250 million to two funds set up by the Arab League last October to support the families of Palestinians killed or wounded in the uprising, and the Al-Aqsa Fund to “preserve the Islamic character of East Jerusalem” and support the Palestinian economy. The Chairman of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank, Ahmad Mohammad Ali, said they had recently received the final instalment of US$40 million from Saudi Arabia to the US$1 billion fund. (AFP, Reuters)


The IDF launched air, naval and land strikes on Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip, killing six people, including a four-year-old child and four policemen. The Israeli attacks were in retaliation for an overnight assault, for which the Hamas claimed responsibility, on the “Eley-Sinai” settlement, during which two young Israelis were killed and 15 others wounded. Israeli tanks made incursions 1-kilometre deep into Palestinian-controlled areas between the settlements of “Eley-Sinai” and “Dugit” in the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli helicopters and warships also shelled Palestinian civilian and security targets, especially police stations, and Palestinian houses were demolished. Following the shootings at the
settlement, the Israeli security cabinet held an emergency session where it was decided to allow the IDF to resume its policy of “preventive self-defence.” Chairman Arafat condemned the attack on the settlement, saying it represented a violation of the ceasefire, and rejected Israeli accusations that the PA was ultimately responsible. (AFP, AP, Comtex Scientific Corporation, DPA, EFE, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters, XINHUA)

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

Prime Minister Sharon cancelled a joint Israeli-Palestinian security meeting following the attack on the “Eley-Sinai” settlement. (AFP)

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and PA Minister for Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath, meeting in Rome, agreed on “the absolute necessity for the immediate resumption” of Israeli-Palestinian talks, and the commitment of the entire international community to that end, a statement from Mr. Berlusconi’s office said. The Italian Prime Minister reaffirmed “his personal commitment and that of Italy towards a peaceful resolution” of the crisis and emphasized “the necessity of raising the standard of living of young Palestinians, which is an indispensable element of a permanent peace”. Mr. Shaath had earlier held talks with Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero, who had said that “current international circumstances represent a very big chance, which must not be allowed to slip away, to relaunch the peace process starting with the implementation of the Mitchell Plan”. Minister Shaath thanked Italy for its financial assistance in the amount of some 12.5 million euros (about US$11.4 million) since last autumn and underlined the “importance of Europe’s role, in tandem with the US, in ending violence and backing dialogue between the parties”. (AFP)

Israel’s security cabinet gave the IDF a “green light” to resume the targeted assassination of Palestinian militants and its incursions into areas under Palestinian control, Israeli diplomatic sources said. Israeli Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer had said that Israeli forces had been authorized to take any action necessary to defend Israeli civilians and soldiers. “Israeli guns have not been silenced since the truce. Israel has not begun the ceasefire to say it is ending it now”, PA Minister and senior negotiator Saeb Erakat told Reuters when asked about Israel’s reinstatement of the track-and-kill policy. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)


Six Palestinians were injured in an exchange of fire with Israeli troops in Hebron, Israel Radio reported. The clash came less than a day after Palestinian gunmen seriously injured an Israeli woman and lightly wounded another during a Sukkot holiday celebration in the city. A Fatah-affiliated group had claimed responsibility for the earlier shooting attack in Hebron, saying it was in response to the IDF’s massive military operations against Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip on 3 October. Later, a Palestinian man was killed as he was walking in the centre of Hebron, when Israeli troops opened fire on a nearby house; another person was wounded. A 21-year-old Palestinian was shot in the back by Israeli soldiers during clashes at the central Gaza Strip’s Karni crossing into Israel, but was in a stable condition. In Bethlehem, a Fatah activist was critically wounded by an explosive device detonated from a distance, in what Palestinian officials said was an Israeli “assassination attempt”. (AFP, EFE, Ha’aretz, Reuters, XINHUA)

The IDF’s occupation of a small strip of land in the northern Gaza Strip continued, with bulldozers razing orchards and fields, witnesses said. The IDF had first entered the area under full Palestinian control near the town of Beit Lahia early on 3 October, following the attack on the neighbouring “Eley-Sinai” settlement. (AFP)

Foreign Minister Peres met Palestinian Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) and PA Minister and senior negotiator Saeb Erakat at a West Jerusalem hotel. According to Israel Radio, Prime Minister Sharon had instructed Mr. Peres to discuss only ceasefire-related topics. Mr. Erakat said the meeting had ended within one hour “without any result” and had been marked by mutual recriminations. The Palestinian side had demanded that Israel lift its closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip but Israel had dismissed the call. Mr. Erakat added that the two sides were unable to agree on a follow-up meeting. (AFP, DPA)

Israel set up at least 10 new settlements, including a total of 65 structures, in the West Bank between June and September 2001, Peace Now said, after conducting an aerial survey. All the new sites had been set up close to existing settlements so as to give the impression that they are merely part of their “natural growth”, the organization said. A total of 25 new settlements had been built since Mr. Sharon became Prime Minister in February. Peace Now accused the Israeli Government of “violating the commitments made in the guidelines of its own coalition, according to which ‘no new settlements will be built’.” It added that “under the authority of Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the settlers [were] conducting a takeover of new lands, unprecedented in its pace and scope”. Despite commitments to dismantle the 15 sites established before May, only one had been removed and the Defence Ministry’s conduct in the matter made “a mockery of the rule of law along with the idea of the authority of the Government over its citizens”. Peace Now spokesman Arie Arnon said “the creation of the new settlements inflames the conflict with the Palestinians and endangers more Israeli soldiers and civilians”, adding that the issue also jeopardized Israel’s place in the US-led global anti-terrorist coalition. “The settlements are an obstacle to any future [peace] agreement, and, as in the past, the settlers are endangering Israel’s security and leading us on a suicidal path”, Mr. Arnon noted. (AFP, DPA, XINHUA)

At a news conference after a Palestinian gunman killed three people at a bus station in the northern Israeli town of Afula, Prime Minister Sharon called on the US and the West not to “try to appease the Arabs at [Israel’s] expense”. “Israel will not be another Czechoslovakia; Israel will fight terrorism”, he stressed, accusing the Palestinians of torpedoing Israeli efforts to achieve a lasting ceasefire. Mr. Sharon said Israel’s inner cabinet had instructed security forces on 3 October “to take all necessary measures to bring full security” to Israeli citizens, following a raid by Palestinian militants on a Gaza Strip settlement on 2 October. “We have only ourselves to rely on, and as of today, we will only rely on ourselves”, Mr. Sharon noted. (AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters, XINHUA)

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the PA must take “immediate, steps to preempt violence, to end shooting attacks and to arrest those who are responsible for planning and conducting acts of violence and terror”. “We have asked, urged both sides to avoid any actions that could jeopardize the reestablishment of direct discussions and do everything possible to restore an atmosphere of calm”, the spokesman added and called on the parties to “engage in the fullest possible coordination on security issues if we are to ensure a long-standing halt to violence and terror”. (AFP)

WAFA said the PLO Executive Committee, meeting under Chairman Arafat in Ramallah, had called on “all forces and factions to strictly respect the ceasefire to preserve the Palestinian national interest”. “Measures have been taken to ensure respect of the ceasefire in a way that denies Israel the pretexts it is using to tarnish the image of the Palestinian people and present their national struggle as a form of terrorism”, the PLO said in a statement. The Central Committee of Fatah also met under Mr. Arafat to issue a similar appeal. “Draconian measures will be taken to prevent any violation of the law and damage to the national interest”, Fatah warned. Fatah and the PLO executive committee renewed their condemnation of the 11 September attacks in the US, pledged to fight terrorism “in all its forms”, and warmly welcomed President Bush’s public support for a Palestinian State as “a cornerstone to security, stability and peace in the Middle East”. (AFP, Reuters)

PA Environment Minister Youssef Abu Safiyeh told a seminar in Alexandria, Egypt, that Israel had “ruined the Palestinian environment”. “We have found 249 sites which Israel uses to bury its industrial waste in Palestinian territory. Israeli forces have swamped Palestinian fields with sewage, ruined 1,745 hectares of productive agricultural land, and pulled up 300,000 olive trees, palms and vines”, the Minister said. He also mentioned the loss of poultry and livestock, water wells, irrigation systems, and demolition of 126 homes and partial destruction of 4,900 homes, as well as three mosques and three churches since the beginning of the intifada. (Reuters)


Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers, backed by helicopter gunships, rolled early in the morning into the Abu Sneineh and Haret al-Sheikh areas of Hebron, which overlook three Israeli settlement enclaves, seizing strategic positions and killing at least five Palestinians in a gun battle; some 45 Palestinians were injured. Several houses were destroyed in the fighting and Israeli troops evacuated 15 Palestinian homes where the soldiers took up rooftop positions. The IDF said it had entered the area after the PA’s failure to enforce order, which had allowed gunmen to fire on Jewish worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs. “Israeli army forces will remain in the area and carry out the necessary activities for a limited time that will be decided based on the operational needs on the ground”, a statement said. PA Cabinet Secretary-General Ahmed Abdel Rahman told Reuters the Hebron incursion had “destroyed the ceasefire”. “We announced and still announce our compliance with the ceasefire ... but Sharon is refusing to take one positive step on the ground as he escalates his military option”, he said. (AFP, AP, DPA, EFE, Reuters, XINHUA)

Ten stone-throwing Palestinian children were hit by live bullets during clashes with Israeli soldiers at the Karni crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, Palestinian hospital sources said. One of the boys was seriously injured. Meanwhile, an Israeli armoured unit moved some 700 metres into the Palestinian-controlled area of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip and opened fire. No one was hurt during the incursion, but damage was done to Palestinian positions. (AFP)

The European Commission said it was allocating an additional five million euros (US$4.58 million) in emergency humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. The aid was destined for the “victims of the ongoing crisis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip”, especially “vulnerable groups, notably women and children”, a statement from Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Poul Nielson said. Since the beginning of 2000, the Commission’s humanitarian aid office (ECHO) had provided a total of 39 million euros (US$35.7 million) in humanitarian aid to the Middle East, most of it to Palestinian refugees and residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the statement said. (AFP)

“France condemns Israeli violent reprisals in Hebron that have killed six in 24 hours”, said French Foreign Ministry spokesman François Rivasseau. The latest attacks against Israeli citizens, “which created new suffering and aimed at obstructing the resumption of political process”, were equally unacceptable, he said, adding that “France welcomes the declarations of the Palestinian authorities calling for the maintenance of the ceasefire. These efforts should be pursued.” (XINHUA)


The PA released a statement saying that “measures [would] be taken against those groups which [did] not put an end to the violence”. The statement accused “some of the armed forces” of having acted against Chairman’s Arafat’s decision to proclaim a ceasefire, in effect providing an excuse for the Israeli Government to continue its attacks against the Palestinians. (DPA)

Two Palestinians were killed when the IDF shelled the Harat Al-Sheikh neighbourhood of Hebron. The IDF had also opened fire at several Palestinian-controlled neighbourhoods of Hebron. (DPA)


Palestinian officials said the PA had started arresting radical Palestinian militants. A Hamas member was arrested in Tulkarm and an Islamic Jihad member had been arrested in Nablus, while two other Jihad members had been detained for questioning in Jenin. The IDF Chief of the General Staff, General Shaul Mofaz, said the arrests were “insufficient.” (AFP)

In an interview published in the German weekly Bild am Sonntag, Foreign Minister Peres declared: “We must arrive at a historic compromise with the Palestinians. A Palestinian State will be created”. While recognising Chairman Arafat as the uncontested leader of the Palestinian people, Mr. Peres urged him to put an end to the continuing violence, noting that Israel had handed over to the PA a list of 108 of “the most dangerous terrorists” and had demanded that “at least the 10 worst offenders should be arrested”, adding that “Arafat ha[d] not done so”. (AFP)

A Palestinian was shot dead and three others injured when the IDF opened fire on their taxi in Hebron, Palestinian security official said. (AFP)


Palestinian Authority officials rejected attempts by Osama bin Laden to link the Palestinian cause with any justification for attacks on civilians. PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Nabil Shaath, during a visit to Hungary noted that Palestinians “do not need anyone using Palestine as a pretext for their own purposes,” adding that “the Palestinian tragedy should be put to an end if we wish to establish a more peaceful and just world.” Earlier PA Minister of Information and Culture, Yasser Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio “it is true that there are injustice, terror, murder and atrocities committed in Palestine, but this does not justify at all that any one should kill civilians, whether in New York or Washington or anywhere else.” (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

Following talks in Cairo with Arab League Secretary-General, Amre Moussa, Chairman Arafat pressed for international efforts to stop Israeli “terrorism” against the Palestinian people. Mr. Arafat told reporters “we demand efforts from America, Europe, Russia, China, Japan, the Arab and Islamic world, the non-aligned countries and the United Nations to implement international resolutions and stop the escalating terrorism against the Palestinian people.” He accused Israel of “striking at the peace process,” and of continuing “its brutal aggression against our people, our towns and villages, our refugee camps, fields and factories, despite a Palestinian-declared ceasefire last month”. Mr. Arafat also warned again that all violators of the ceasefire would be arrested. (AFP)

The IDF shot and killed two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians sources said. A 30-year-old man was killed when the IDF opened fire on a car at a road barrier near the settlement of “Netzarim”. The IDF said soldiers had fired on a car approaching the control point “in a dangerous manner”. The second incident took place near Beit Hanoun. A Palestinian was shot and killed as he apparently tried to cross the border into Israel. Israeli radio reported that the circumstances of the second incident were unclear. (AFP, DPA)

EU Foreign Ministers in a statement “welcomed President George W. Bush’s declaration acknowledging the right of Palestinians to a viable state provided that Israel’s right to exist [was] guaranteed,” adding that “this [had] long been the EU’s position”. The EU Ministers also called on the US to “exert all its influence with a view to a settlement of the conflict in the Middle East.” While repeating earlier appeals, the statement urged Israelis and Palestinians to agree on an “impartial surveillance mechanism” to help them overcome continuing differences. The statement called again for a dialogue between Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat, and deplored “the considerable increase in the number of victims resulting from confrontations, terror, provocation and violence.” (DPA)

Israeli tank fire killed three Palestinians, whom the IDF said were trying to plant a bomb near an army post at the Karni crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials said the men were car thieves trying to cross into Israel to carry out petty crimes rather than politically-motivated attacks. (AFP, EFE, Ha’aretz, Reuters)


Israeli tanks and armoured bulldozers moved several hundred metres into Palestinian-controlled area, firing warning shots for Palestinian farmers to keep out of sight, and flattened farmland near the “Gush Katif” settlement block in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

French Foreign Ministry spokesman François Rivasseau said the PA had displayed “a courageous commitment” to the ceasefire agreement with Israel and “significant actions [had] been taken [by it] in the realm of security”. “We would like to see Israel for its part implement its engagements, in particular concerning the improvement of living conditions for the [Palestinian] population and the withdrawal of forces from autonomous areas”, he added. (AFP)

The IDF killed two Palestinians trying to enter a settlement in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli Army spokesman said. Israeli troops on what the spokesman called “initiated operational activity” identified the two trying to breach the fence surrounding the “Gush Katif” settlement and opened fire. According to the spokesman, the IDF had prevented an attack against civilians and soldiers in the area. (DPA)

The PA’s determined stance against pro-bin Laden demonstrators received praise from the US Administration. At the same time, Secretary Powell called on Messrs Sharon and Peres asking Israel to cease “provocative” incursions into areas under Palestinian control. President Bush declared that “there would be no better stabilizer for our [anti-terrorist] coalition than for the Mitchell process to begin in the Middle East”. (AFP)


Chairman Arafat, speaking at the OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Doha, Qatar, strongly condemned the terrorist acts committed in the US and said Israel was taking advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the tragic events in the US to escalate its aggression against the Palestinians. Mr. Arafat asked for a Security Council resolution to force Israel to respect the ceasefire and set up an international observation mechanism to monitor compliance. Prime Minister Sharon’s Spokesman Raanan Gissin in response to Mr. Arafat’s speech said that Israel was not launching a new offensive against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but was acting in self-defence in the face of ongoing attacks by Palestinian militants. (ITAR-TASS, Reuters)

The need to distinguish between terrorism and national liberation struggle, especially as regards the Palestinians, was stressed in the final communiqué by the OIC Foreign Ministers meeting in Doha. They again expressed support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital, strongly criticized Israeli “state terrorism” against the Palestinian people and called for Security Council action to ensure international protection for the Palestinians. Meanwhile the Chairman of the Conference, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani called on the US to “assume its responsibilities by ensuring the necessary international protection for the unarmed Palestinian people with a view to resuming the [Israeli-Palestinian] peace process”, while describing President Bush’s implicit support for a Palestinian State as a “very important positive step”. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli armoured bulldozers and tanks moved several hundred metres into Palestinian-controlled territory in the southern Gaza Strip, flattening fields and olive orchards near the Palestinian town of Al-Qarara, east of the “Gush Katif” settlement, a senior Palestinian security official told AFP. He said the IDF had carried out several incursions in the sector in the past three days, and accused the Israelis of seizing Palestinian land to build a road to the settlement. (AFP)

According to Israeli Prime Minister office statement, the Israeli security cabinet had decided to follow the recommendations of the inter-ministerial team which had rejected an appeal to the Supreme Court for the return of Israeli Arabs to their villages of Ikrit and Biram, near the border with Lebanon, from which they had been ousted in 1948. “The State should oppose it, not only for security reasons, but also to avoid setting a precedent in favour of the right of return” of Palestine refugees, the statement added. Since the appeal was lodged in 1997, the cabinet had postponed its ruling seven times, the Israeli ITIM agency said. The first decision not to allow Ikrit and Biram residents to return to their villages was made by the Israeli Government in 1972. (AFP)


Ha’aretz reported that the US had not cancelled a peace initiative for the Middle East, but had postponed publishing its details until after completing the military campaign in Afghanistan. The US wants to use the plan to show the Arabs that there is a “political horizon” at the end of the tunnel. The main points of the peace plan, disclosed by an Israeli source close to the US Administration, reportedly include: two States for two peoples; Jerusalem as capital of both States (without details of its division or the arrangements for the Al-Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount); recognition of the national characteristic of each State -- Israel as Jewish, Palestine as Palestinian. The plan also reaffirms Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, the 1991 Madrid Conference and the 1993 Oslo Peace accords, as the basis for any future agreement between the sides. However, the right of return for Palestine refugees to Israel is not mentioned in the report. The daily also revealed that the US was considering sending a new presidential Middle East envoy to the region. The candidate may be Anthony Zinni, a former Commander-in-Chief of the US Central Command. The paper said that Israel had been kept in the dark during all the preparations for the plan and the US has coordinated its move with its Arab allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. (DPA, Ha’aretz, Xinhua)

Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University, has been unofficially appointed by Chairman Arafat to take over from Faisal Husseini, who passed away several months ago, as the senior PLO representative in Jerusalem. (The Jerusalem Post)

Five Israeli bulldozers and four tanks seized some 40 hectares (100 acres) of land by the southern village of al-Qarara in order to build a road leading from the Israeli border checkpoint of Kissufim to the main north-south road in Gaza, a Palestinian security official said. A bridge connecting the new road to the Jewish settlement block of "Gush Katif" would then bypass Al-Saladin road. “They are working very hard and fast,” he said. The plan was announced by Israel several months ago as an initiative to protect settlers from roadside ambushes. (AFP)

An Arab League body, the Office for the Boycott of Israel (OBI, established in 1951), convened for a four-day meeting in Damascus. Delegates from 19 of the 22 Arab League members attended the meeting, with Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania absent. The OBI “examined the situation of companies that have established relations with Israel and recommended that they be totally or partially boycotted depending on the situation of each,” a statement said. Ahmed Khazaa, the bureau’s commissioner-general, told a news conference that several U.S., European and Hong Kong companies had been blacklisted for violating the boycott rules, but refused to name the companies blacklisted, contrary to the bureau’s previous practice. “The names of these companies is not important, the important thing is to pass on the message that we have a just cause to defend,” Mr. Khazaa said. “The economic boycott of Israel is a way to resist the aggression against our lands and draw the attention of the international community” to the Arab-Israeli conflict. (AFP, Reuters)

President Bush in a televised press conference said “I believe there ought to be a Palestinian State so long as the Palestinian State recognizes the right of Israel to exist.” Asked whether he would consider meeting with Chairman Arafat, Mr. Bush replied: “If I am convinced that a meeting with a particular party at this point in time will further the process, I will do so. If it turns out to be an empty photo opportunity that creates expectations that will become dashed, I won't meet.” (AFP)


Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Peres reportedly were drifting further apart on the preferable course of action in the current conflict, the former refusing to proceed to an easing of the blockade on Palestinian towns, despite the significant reduction in violence attested to by Mr. Peres. Ha’aretz reported that Mr. Sharon was also quoted as saying that he would not allow Mr. Peres to hold more meetings with Chairman Arafat, as he felt that, after each meeting between the two there had been a dramatic rise in attacks on Israeli targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)


In an interview with the Jordanian daily Al-Rai, Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb of Jordan said a solution to the Middle East conflict “could depend upon the launch of a new initiative backed by the Arabs, which would deliver a global peace to the Israelis reaching beyond the confines of the Palestinian problem also to take in the Syrian and Lebanese elements” of the peace process. He added that such action should be launched through “the framework of international law and be based upon UN resolutions and the conclusions of the [1991] Madrid conference”. The Prime Minister noted that the current climate favoured such measures, explaining that “the Arab world [was] pressing the US Administration on the need to tackle the root causes of terrorism, such as the Middle East conflict”. (AFP)

Hundreds of Palestine refugees living in the Dheisheh camp near Bethlehem staged a protest against recent water shortages. The PA’s regional director for water supply, Mussa Hasheaar, said the settlers from the nearby “Tekoa” settlement were grabbing most of the water from the underground water supply. He added that wells in Beit Sahur, Beit Jala and Bethlehem were now yielding only 200 cubic metres of water an hour, or one-tenth of what they were yielding three weeks ago. The Israeli water board responded to the accusation by saying there was a “technical problem”. (AFP)

PA Minister and senior negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP that, during talks the previous day with Foreign Minister Peres and Palestinian Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei, Mr. Peres had “promised measures easing the blockade on the Palestinian territories”. “The meeting was very serious and positive ... But experience has taught us to remain cautious, and what will actually happen on the ground in the next days remains to be seen. It will be a test of how serious the Israelis are”, Mr. Qurei told the Al-Ayam daily. (AFP)


Foreign Minister Peres had another meeting with Messrs Erakat and Qurei in a bid to push forward the ceasefire. According to Mr. Erakat, discussions had focused on ways of returning to the Mitchell plan to ease tensions and restore confidence between the parties. But he stressed that the issue of Israel easing its blockade of Palestinian towns had been discussed four times already with no results on the ground. (AFP)

Prime Minister Sharon told his Cabinet that Israel would ease restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, introduced as a security measure against attacks by Palestinian militants, Israel Radio reported. Palestinian sources quoted Foreign Minister Peres as telling them that measures to ease the restrictions included a lifting of the blockade around Jericho and Ramallah. Two border passages would also be reopened, namely the Allenby passage to Jordan and the Rafah passage to Egypt. Family visits between the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be allowed as of next week. Merchants and security officials would also be allowed to cross between the West Bank and Gaza Strip twice a week, the sources said. Mr. Sharon told the cabinet meeting that Israel’s army should leave two Palestinian neighbourhoods it had occupied in Hebron, if Palestinian gunmen did not resume shooting at its Jewish section. Later in the day the radio reported that Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Hebron to discuss the withdrawal. Palestinian Preventive Security chief Jibril Rajoub told Reuters the meeting in Hebron had been “successful”. Foreign Minister Peres said similar arrangements were in the works at other flashpoints, such as Beit Jala and Jericho in the West Bank and Rafah in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian security would assume responsibility for guaranteeing “complete quiet”. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Palestinian, Israeli and US officials met in the Tel Aviv area for high-level talks on firming up the fragile ceasefire and paving the way to future peace talks, Palestinian officials said. (Reuters)

PA security services had foiled four attempted suicide bombings against Israel in the past two weeks, an unnamed senior Palestinian security official told AFP. The official said several arrests of potential suicide bombers had been made, including of members of the Islamic Jihad. (AFP)

In Qalqilya, Israeli troops shot dead Abdul Rahman Hamad, 35, a Hamas militant accused of masterminding the 1 June attack on a Tel Aviv night club, which had killed 22 young people, as well as the Hamas suicide bomber; he was believed to have been planning a new attack. (AFP, Reuters)

The UAE announced they had completed payments towards the amount of US$150 million they had undertaken to contribute to the two funds created at the October 2000 Arab Summit in Cairo to support the Palestinians. (AFP)

A news agency focusing on news and information on Palestine and the intifada had been established in Tehran, the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. The new non-governmental news agency, “QODSNA”, would centre its coverage on the Palestinian resistance movement against Israel, its Managing Director Mosayyeb Naeemi said, adding that, in cooperation with IRNA, it would present its news in Persian, Arabic and English. (XINHUA)


Israeli troops and tanks pulled out of two Palestinian-controlled areas of Hebron, to make way for Palestinian police. Palestinian security sources said Israeli soldiers had moved out of Hebron’s Abu Sneinah and Al-Sheikh neighbourhoods in the pre-dawn hours as part of an agreed withdrawal and Palestinian security forces were on their way in. The parallel dismantling of some roadblocks near Ramallah and Jericho was dismissed by West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti as meaningless. “There is no real change on the ground. Pushing back a tank a few metres is just misleading. What is required is to end the siege totally and stop the aggression in line with a political agreement to end the occupation”, Mr. Barghouti said. (AFP, Reuters)

Following talks with Chairman Arafat in London, Prime Minister Blair said “[a] viable Palestinian State, as part of a negotiated and agreed settlement, which guarantees peace and security for Israel, is the objective”, adding that he and Mr. Arafat were “in complete agreement that now [was] the right time to reinvigorate the [Middle East peace] process”. Chairman Arafat, for his part, restated his condemnation of the 11 September attacks in the US, adding: “We are against all forms of terrorism, including state-sponsored terrorism”. He urged an immediate resumption of negotiations with Israel, repeating his call for an independent Palestinian State, with Jerusalem as its capital, which would exist alongside the Jewish State. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Palestinian Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei told a session of the Council there would not be any ceasefire if Israel did not end its policy of liquidating suspected Palestinian activists. He said deputies should publicly back the decision by Chairman Arafat to respect the ceasefire but continue the intifada against Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territory and against Jewish settlers. (AFP)

Another Hamas activist, Ahmad Mershud, 34, was killed when the car he was driving exploded in Nablus. Some Palestinians said he had been killed in a helicopter missile strike, while others said a booby-trapped car exploded as he was passing by. The IDF declined to comment. (AFP, DPA, EFE, Reuters)

Palestinian farmers said they were picking olives near their village of Tulmosay, in the vicinity of Ramallah, when settlers attacked their vehicles, burning two cars and smashing up two others. Israeli police confirmed that two cars had been burnt and said they found rifle cartridges at the scene. They had opened an investigation but had so far made no arrests, a spokesman said. (AFP)

Speaking after an hour-long meeting in Dublin, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern praised Chairman Arafat for calling the 18 September ceasefire, describing it as a “courageous” step, while noting that “the Irish position, as it has been for a long, long time, is to see the creation of the Palestinian State and equally that the Israelis can live in safety and security.” (AFP)

The US criticised Israel’s reaffirmation of its policy of targeting Palestinian militants. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that, while Israel’s policy and the US hunt for bin Laden might be similar, “that doesn’t mean the two situations are comparable or require the same response.” (Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon was quoted as telling members of his Likud Party that the Oslo accords no longer existed and were dead. Mr. Sharon added that he was “ready for a Palestinian State within a framework agreement, if it does not threaten Israel, and whose borders [Israel] controlled by agreement”. (AFP)


Israeli tanks shelled the Palestinian town of Khan Yunis, south of Gaza City, damaging dozens of homes. There were no immediate reports of casualties, WAFA reported without explaining the circumstances of the shelling. (Comtex Scientific Corporation)

During a meeting in London, King Abdullah II told British Prime Minister Blair that the establishment of a Palestinian State was “inevitable” and the only guarantee of stability in the Middle East. (AFP, Reuters)

Foreign Minister Peres told reporters during a visit to Prague that Israel was willing to end its policy of so-called “targeted killings” of militants, but only once the Palestinian Authority arrested “the troublemakers” themselves. Mr. Peres also said that he wanted “to see an independent Palestinian State successful, flourishing” as he thought “the better the Palestinians will have it, the better neighbour we shall have.'' (AFP, Reuters)

Palestinian Intelligence Chief Amin Al-Hindi submitted a letter of protest to Israel, charging they had not fulfilled all its commitments to ease restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, Voice of Palestine Radio reported. Mr. Al-Hindi said that although Israel had withdrawn from the two Palestinian neighbourhoods Abu Sneineh and Al-Sheikh in Hebron, other major West Bank cities, including Nablus and Tulkarm, were still tightly sealed. The promise to open the Allenby passage to Jordan and the Rafah passage to Egypt also had not been implemented, although the closure on Ramallah and Jericho had been eased considerably, Palestinian officials said. (AFP)

Prime Minister Sharon said that if peace talks with the Palestinians were resumed at some point, once Palestinians had fully implemented the ceasefire, he was ready to lead his country’s negotiating team and to agree to a Palestinian State, if it met Israeli security needs. A plan acceptable to Israel would reportedly entail an eventual independent Palestinian State, with “certain withdrawals from the West Bank”, a complete pull-out from the Gaza Strip and the dismantling of all settlements there. According to remarks by Mr. Sharon broadcast on Israeli media, the Palestinians would get “a demilitarized State, a State with a police force, a State where [Israel] will deploy [forces] on its external borders”. His terms for the new State would also include overflight rights for Israel and a ban on signing agreements with countries hostile to Israel; moreover, Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of Israel. PA Minister Hassan Asfour told Reuters Mr. Sharon’s latest remarks were “irresponsible” and showed that he was “not aware of the changes and developments that are taking place regionally and internationally”, adding that “a Palestinian State is not a gift from Sharon and is not negotiable”. (AFP, Reuters) A 28-year-old Hamas activist was killed by an unexplained explosion in his home near the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Hamas leader Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi said Israel was behind this action and vowed retaliation. The IDF said they knew nothing of the incident. (DPA, Reuters) Upon returning from his European tour, Chairman Arafat said recent statements in support of a Palestinian State from the US, EU and Russian leaders were “extremely important” and said it was necessary for the State to be established quickly. “We are constantly following efforts made by leaders of the EU, the US, Russia, Arab and Muslim countries, as well as China”, he noted, and expressed optimism about the peace process. (Reuters, XINHUA) In its updated report on settlements, Peace Now noted that 20,371 more housing units had been constructed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, compared to 32,750 units in 1993, when the Oslo accords were signed, representing an increase of 62 per cent. Peace Now pointed out that an underlying assumption of Oslo was that “it would lead to the end of Israeli rule in the territories”. Yet, considering those data, the Palestinians had all the reasons to believe that Israel did not want peace and continued to use force, as they viewed settlement construction as “a unilateral act of violence on the part of Israel against them”, the report said. Based on materials published by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, the report also revealed that under former Prime Minister Barak a total of 6,045 housing units had been constructed, reaching the peak in the year 2000 when 4,499 units had been completed. Mr. Barak’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, had completed 4,210 new units in 1998. “This fact must be taken into account when considering the reasons for the outbreak of the current intifada”, the peace group asserted. Under Prime Minister Sharon, Peace Now said there were 832 new units under construction in the first half of this year. The report concluded that the past year of violence had proven that the settlements were only “a security, economic, and political burden for Israel”. (XINHUA)


The Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for the assassination of outgoing Israeli Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze’evy in a Jerusalem hotel. The PFLP said the killing was in retaliation for the assassination of its leader, Abu Ali Moustafa, by Israeli forces in late August and vowed to continue the armed struggle. (AFP, EFE, Reuters, XINHUA) Prime Minister Sharon said he held Chairman Arafat fully responsible for Minister Ze’evy’s assassination and decided to suspend all contacts with the Palestinian Authority, saying they would be resumed only when there was a complete halt to “terrorism”. Mr. Sharon reportedly declared that “From today, everything has changed just as President Bush said after the 11th of September”, thus justifying the immediate rescinding of steps to ease the blockade of Palestinian areas, notably Ramallah. Ultra-orthodox settlers in Hebron called for the “elimination” of Chairman Arafat. (AFP, EFE, Reuters) “Despite the hard-line positions of Minister Ze’evy and out of the PA’s commitment to peace, it reiterates its condemnation for this action and extends its condolences to the State of Israel, Knesset and the wife and the family of Ze’evy”, the Palestinian Authority said in a statement. “President Arafat issued his instructions to all security services to look for this group that carried out the assassination and arrest them”, a Palestinian security official said, adding that Mr. Arafat had also instructed the security services to crack down on whoever violated the ceasefire. UN Special Coordinator Terse Rød-Larsen confirmed that Mr. Arafat had given orders for the arrest of Mr. Ze’evy’s assassins. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

In a statement at the end of an EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg, the Belgian EU presidency condemned in the strongest terms the assassination of Minister Ze’evy, at the same time expressing the hope that “will not interrupt the most recent efforts undertaken by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities toward ensuring a return to calm and an improvement in the situation of the Palestinians”. “The objective”, the statement said, was “a resumption of direct dialogue and a restart of the political process”. Statements on similar lines were made by, among others, Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. (AFP, Reuters)

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

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush condemned “in the strongest terms” Minister Ze’evy’s assassination, noting that “[t]his despicable act is further evidence of the need to fight terrorism”. Although the PA’s condemnation was “appropriate”, he said words were not enough and vigorous action should now be taken. Mr. Fleischer called on the PA to “immediately find and bring to justice those who committed this murder, as well as those who would do harm to efforts to restore an atmosphere of calm and security for Israelis and Palestinians”. He added that the two sides should continue their positive steps to improve the situation, as “the terrorists must not be allowed to declare victory”. He renewed the US appeal for the parties to implement the Tenet and Mitchell plans. (AFP, Reuters)

Chairman Arafat assured Foreign Minister Peres in a telephone call, that everything possible would be done to arrest the PFLP members who had claimed responsibility for the assassination of Minister Ze’evy. (AFP).

As a retaliatory measure for the assassination of Minister Ze’evy, the Israeli Government banned Chairman Arafat from using Gaza International Airport. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

PA Minister for Planning and International Cooperation, Nabil Shaath rejected an Israeli demand to hand over the assassins of Minister Ze’evy. The Israeli security cabinet issued an ultimatum to the PA to extradite those responsible for the assassination, adding that failure to do so would result in the PA being viewed “as an entity supporting and sponsoring terror” and for security cabinet “to act accordingly”. “According to the signed agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel it is clear that neither would hand over people they arrest to the other,” Mr. Shaath said to reporters in Gaza. Mr. Shaath confirmed the PA had arrested several PFLP activists, but he did not provide additional information. (Comtex Scientific Corporation, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)


Three Palestinians, including a ten-year-old girl, were killed and 19 people wounded when Israel tanks and bulldozers moved into Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank towns of Ramallah and Jenin. In the area of Jenin, eight tanks, given air cover by helicopter gunships, made incursions five kilometres into the area. According to Palestinian sources, Israeli tanks fired rounds at a school, killing the 10-year old girl and wounding four other students and three adults. The IDF claimed the tanks were responding to gunfire from Palestinian militants inside the school. In Ramallah, tanks moved several hundred metres into the town, killing a Palestinian policeman and a member of Force 17. The Israeli action was later described by Chairman Arafat’s adviser, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, as “a clear violation of all the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority,” adding that the PA “put all the blame for what happened in Ramallah and Jenin on the Israeli Government”. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

European Commission President Romano Prodi told reporters ahead of a EU summit in the Belgian city of Ghent, that global efforts to combat terror had to be backed by intensified Middle East peace moves and more effective anti-poverty measures. A renewed focus on Muslim countries was also needed, he added, noting the EU also intended to relaunch the “Barcelona process” bringing together the 15-nation Union with Middle Eastern and North African nations, including Israel and the Palestinians. (DPA)

Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero, on a Middle East tour, told reporters after meeting Arab League Secretary-General, Amre Moussa, that he saw a “window of opportunity” for peacemaking between the Israelis and Palestinians, based on the principles of a Palestinian State and security for Israel. Mr. Moussa for his part, said that the establishment of a Palestinian State was the only way to bring about an end to the “explosive situation in the Middle East.” (DPA, Reuters)

An Israeli helicopter gunship strike killed Fatah activist Atef Abayat, accused by Israel of being responsible for the death of five Israelis. Two other Fatah activists were also killed at the same incident. Palestinian security officials initially said the car they were riding had been blown up by a rocket, but later said the helicopter had detonated a bomb already placed on board the vehicle, probably by a Palestinian collaborator. A statement from Prime Minister Sharon’s office quoted Israeli security sources as speculating that Mr. Abayat was carrying explosives that detonated prematurely. Almost immediately after the killing, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the neighbouring “Gilo” settlement. Hours later, gunmen ambushed a group of Israelis on a road near Jericho, killing one man and injuring two others. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker urged Israel “to act with restraint, not to let the terrorism that was perpetrated against their minister to have a victory in this by derailing the positive steps that we’ve seen”. Mr. Reeker also called on the Palestinian Authority to “find, arrest and bring to justice all those responsible” for the killing. (AFP)


Some 20 Israeli tanks penetrated deep into the Bethlehem area from two directions, Jabal Hindata and Rachel’s Tomb, before a column of armoured cars circled a nearby refugee camp and Israeli troops were reported to have occupied Bethlehem’s “Paradise” hotel. Soldiers took over about 10 buildings near the Rachel’s Tomb shrine, reinforcing them with sandbags. They also took up positions in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem. “These incursions were decided after Palestinians fired mortars at Gilo”, an IDF spokesman said. Israeli Defence Ministry spokesman Yarden Vatikai told AFP: “There is no time limit; the army will stay in the Bethlehem sector as long as necessary to carry out its mission, which is to prevent firing on Gilo”. In the clashes that ensued, three Palestinians were shot dead, in Beit Jala, Al-Khader and the Aida refugee camp respectively, and some 28 were wounded, five seriously; three Israeli soldiers were also hurt, one seriously. Another Palestinian died in hospital from an Israeli gunshot wound to the head, after clashes at the Karni crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. At the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy died when a live Israeli tank shell exploded as he was playing with it. Israeli tanks had fired the shell into the camp earlier in the day, Palestinian security sources said. During clashes in Ramallah, which had been encircled by Israeli troops, a Force-17 member was shot dead. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Israeli Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit said that, despite allegations to the contrary, the Israeli Government had no intention to harm Chairman Arafat, as a response to the assassination of Minister Ze’evy. In an interview with Israel Radio, Minister Sheetrit also stressed that the Sharon Government had no intention to bring about the collapse of the PA. (XINHUA)

A survey published in Maariv found that 61 per cent of Israelis favoured a peace deal with the Palestinians that would include the establishment of an independent Palestinian State alongside the Jewish State, while 33 per cent said they were opposed. At the same time, 60 per cent of Israelis polled viewed Chairman Arafat as “the enemy”, with only 30 per cent calling him a “partner” in the peace process. 72 per cent said the IDF should carry on with its policy of targeted killings of Palestinian militants. In a separate poll published by Yediot Aharonot, 62 per cent of Israelis voiced support for “the liquidation of senior Palestinian officials”, in retaliation for Minister Ze’evy’s killing, while 36 per cent opposed this. (AFP, XINHUA)

Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa urged the international community “to act rapidly and in concrete terms to prevent Israel from persisting with the policy of assassinations”, at the same time stating that “The Arab League, which condemns on principle political assassinations, everywhere and in all its forms, calls for their immediate halt”. Mr. Moussa warned that Israel’s “military escalation” after the killing of Minister Ze’evy was creating a circle of tit-for-tat violence. (AFP)

Peace Now director Moria Shlomot said in a statement that the Government of Israel was “cynically exploiting the assassination of Tourism Minister Ze’evy in order to drag us into an all-out military confrontation with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people”, adding that “[t]here is no consensus in the Israeli public for such a war, and we protest the attempt to foist upon us the agenda of an extremist minority”. (XINHUA)

In a statement issued during their summit in Ghent, EU leaders underlined “the crucial necessity of relaunching the peace process in the Middle East without preconditions”. They noted that an eventual settlement should be based “on the establishment of a Palestinian State and the right of Israel to live in peace and security”, adding that “such a settlement is conditional on a cessation of the violence and the recognition of the principle of two States for two peoples”. (Reuters)

The PA in a statement called for “direct intervention by the international community to set up an effective ceasefire, halt the Israeli measures and assure a restarting of political and security meetings” with Israel. The meetings, it said, should be held with “international participation” and focus on the “application of the Tenet document and Mitchell plan, as well as restarting negotiations on the basis of exchanging land for peace.” (AFP)

Four Palestinians were killed when the IDF made twin incursions into Tulkarm and Qalqilya overnight. Two Palestinian security force members were killed in Tulkarm during a heavy exchange of fire between Israeli and Palestinian forces, according to Palestinian sources, as the IDF rolled into the town. Meanwhile a 37-year-old Palestinian civilian and a 20-year-old Palestinian policeman were killed during the incursion into Qalqilya. Another member of the Palestinian security forces was said to have been seriously injured in the exchange. The IDF confirmed the incursions, saying it had occupied “strategic positions” in both towns “from which firing had taken place recently against Israeli targets.” The IDF has encircled and entered six West Bank towns: Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, in what it described as “the largest ground activity carried out so far in Palestinian Authority territories”. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)


Four Palestinians were killed in Bethlehem during a third day of incursions in the West Bank. Israeli gunfire killed a 19-year-old Palestinian near the Church of the Nativity, while a spray of bullets killed a 48-year-old woman at her home in the Aida refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem, hospital sources said. Israeli tank fire also killed a 17-year-old. An IDF statement said the 17-year old had approached an Israeli outpost and stabbed an Israeli soldier, wounding him lightly, before the tank fired. A 23-year old woman was killed by shrapnel from a tank shell, which exploded near her house in Beit Jala. Thirteen other Palestinians were injured. The IDF later denied Palestinian accusations that its forces had opened fire on the Church of the Nativity. (AFP, Reuters)

The Christian churches in Jerusalem called on the international community and churches around the world urging Israel to put an end to its incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas. “There has been a dramatic intervention, within the last few hours, in the autonomous Palestinian territories by the Israeli armed forces. Tanks are everywhere, buildings have been besieged; some areas are under curfew and there is extensive shooting,” the heads of churches in Jerusalem said in a statement. “We are particularly concerned about Bethlehem, the place of our Saviour’s birth,” they said, describing the situation as “intolerable”. The statement also “deplored all acts of violence” and called for a resumption of peace negotiations. (AFP)


The PA banned the military wing of the PFLP. In a statement published in Gaza City, the PA ordered all activities of the Abu Ali Mustafa brigades of the PFLP to cease. Although the PFLP, which claimed responsibility for Minister Ze’evy’s assassination on 17 October, was not named in the statement, the PA Supreme Security Council stated that its military brigade was outlawed and warned other militant groups, particularly the military wing of the Islamic Jihad and Hamas, to stop all violations of a ceasefire with Israel. The statement said the Abu Ali Mustafa brigades operated in contradiction to Palestinian interests when carrying out the assassination by “helping Israel thereby to justify” its subsequent occupation of six West Bank towns. (AFP, DPA)

Qatar, as chair of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), called for an urgent UN Security Council session to end “Israeli aggression” against the Palestinians. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin-Jassem bin-Jabr al-Thani summoned the ambassadors of the Security Council’s five permanent members in Doha to convey the request, a Foreign Ministry source told the official Qatar News Agency. The Minister said the Security Council should “shoulder its responsibilities by stopping these grave Israeli practices and providing international protection for the Palestinian people.” Syria and Iran also called for a Security Council meeting. (AFP)

Pope John Paul II said that he had learned with great sadness of the killings in Bethlehem and Beit Jala, noting, “war and death [had] even come to the square at the Church of the Nativity”. “I repeat one more time in the name of God: violence is for everyone a path of death and destruction which dishonors God’s name and the dignity of human beings," he added. (AFP)

According to Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Chairman Arafat’s adviser, Mr. Arafat in a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Powell, asked for President Bush and his Administration “to intervene and pressure the Israelis to withdraw from Palestinian territory”. Mr. Arafat also called UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan the previous day and “asked Annan to take steps to stop the attacks on the Palestinian people and cities and to guard and push the peace process forward,” the adviser added. (AFP)

Four Palestinians were killed and dozens injured in heavy clashes. Two Palestinians were killed in the early evening hours: an 18-year-old Palestinian girl shot dead near Jenin while picking olives with her family in an orchard, and a Palestinian officer killed in fighting in the Bethlehem area. Earlier, there was heavy fighting in the Al-Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, where two men were killed by the IDF, one of them a police major. In a separate incident, a 17-year-old Palestinian who was critically injured on 29 September during clashes in the central Gaza Strip town of Deir al-Balah, died of his wounds. (AFP, XINHUA)

United Nations Secretary-General Annan and Foreign Minister Peres in a meeting in New York “reviewed the grave situation in the Middle East. The Foreign Minister explained the demands that Israel is making of the PA. The Secretary-General emphasized the need to find a way to return to the negotiating table on the basis of the Mitchell Report,” Marie Okabe, the Secretary-General’s spokeswoman said. (AFP, DPA)

Israeli Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer said that the Israel had “no intention of provoking the collapse of the Palestinian Authority or the fall of Yasser Arafat”, despite its largest military operation in the West Bank in a year of violence. “On the contrary, we want him to take things in hand himself and act against terrorists,” he added. (AFP, Reuters)


UN Special Coordinator Terje Rød-Larsen said envoys from the UN, the EU (Miguel Moratinos), the US (consul Ronald Schlichler), and Russia (Andrei Vdovin) “met this morning with Chairman Arafat to discuss the current dangerous situation and urged him to take vigorous steps to combat terrorism and enforce the Palestinian ceasefire order” of 16 September. The envoys also said “these steps should be matched with reciprocity by Israel in full compliance with existing agreements, including the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces and security personnel” from Palestinian-controlled areas. (AFP)

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Sun Yuxi said China was “seriously concerned and worried about the escalation of violent conflicts between Israel and Palestine” and that “China [had] noted the efforts Palestinian Authorities have made to alleviate the tension and [expected] the two sides to maintain maximum restraint”. (AFP, Reuters)

French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine in a Le Monde article called on Israel to halt all military operations against the Palestinians, freeze all forms of Jewish settlement expansion and lift its blockade of Palestinian-controlled territory. The Palestinians, he said, had to commit fully to fighting “terrorist organisations and networks”' and combat all forms of anti-Israeli incitement. “Both sides [should] agree unconditionally on political negotiations and accept an impartial international observer mechanism,” Mr. Védrine wrote. “Only...a clear and straightforward solution, the creation of a viable Palestinian State, will provide a way out of this drama and allow a new Middle East to start to be built,” he said. Such a solution would assume an Israeli withdrawal from the bulk of Palestinian Occupied Territory, the dismantling of settlements and recognition of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, adding that it would also require a cast-iron commitment from the Palestinians that a State of their own and arrangements regarding the return of refugees and military capabilities would not pose a threat to Israel, the Foreign Minister wrote. (Reuters)

Secretary Powell welcomed the Palestinian leadership’s decision to ban the armed wing of the PFLP, while urging both sides to make “whatever reciprocal moves they [could].” Mr. Powell also told reporters traveling back with him from an Asian visit that he had encouraged both Israel and the Palestinians to show restraint in the escalation that followed Minister Ze’evy assassination. (Reuters)

A 19-year-old Palestinian died from wounds sustained in Israeli shelling on 20 October in Bethlehem, Palestinian sources said. (DPA)

US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said “Israeli Defence Forces should be withdrawn immediately from all Palestinian-controlled areas and no further such incursions should be made”. “We deeply regret and deplore Israel Defence Force actions that have killed numerous Palestinian civilians over the weekend. The deaths of those innocent civilians under the circumstances reported in recent days are unacceptable. We call upon Israel to ensure that its armed forces exercise greater discipline and restraint”, he added. Mr. Reeker also called on the PA to “do all in its power to halt violence and terror and bring to justice the terrorists whose actions are betraying Palestinian interests … Failure on the part of the Palestinian Authority to confront terror in a decisive manner is absolutely unacceptable.” “As we’ve said in the past, both sides have to step back and consider where their actions are leading”, he noted. His comments followed a call from Chairman Arafat for President Bush to urge Israel to withdraw its tanks and troops from the Palestinian areas in the West Bank. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

A statement from Prime Minister Sharon’s office said Israel did not plan to take control of Palestinian-ruled areas but the murder of Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze’evy had “crossed a red line and Israel, like any democratic country, [was] fulfilling its right to self-defence”. (Reuters)

Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa said in Washington that anger at the Israeli occupation gave “terrorists” a chance to hide behind a legitimate cause. “The anger in the Middle East, the frustration and despair, emanate chiefly from the major injustice done to the Palestinians and other Arabs and the continued occupation and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel”, Mr. Moussa noted, urging for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, a viable Palestinian State, and a fair solution for Jerusalem and for Palestinian refugees. “We must be aware that only by resolving ongoing conflicts can we effectively deprive terrorists of hiding behind legitimate causes and gaining sympathizers”, Mr. Moussa said in his speech to the Arab-American Institute Foundation and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination League. (AFP, Reuters)

Palestinians blamed Israel for the explosion of a booby-trapped car in Nablus that killed Hamas militant Ayman Halaweh and injured three more Palestinians. Israeli officials had no comment on the blast, but an Israeli government statement said Mr. Halaweh had been involved in eight suicide bombings in recent years, in which 49 people had been killed and some 300 injured. Hamas vowed to avenge the killing. Gun battles raged overnight throughout the West Bank, particularly in Bethlehem. In Qalqiliya, Israeli tanks and bulldozers raided part of the city, destroying a Palestinian security force installation and the family house of a suicide bomber responsible for the 1 June attack in Tel Aviv, the IDF said. (AFP, Reuters)

Chairman Arafat told EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana that Palestinian security had arrested and would continue to arrest militants of the Hamas, PFLP and Fatah groups. Mr. Solana pledged, on behalf of the EU, to continue all efforts to improve the situation. (AFP, DPA)

The PA Health Ministry in a statement appealed for international help to halt the firing by the Israeli army on Palestinian medical personnel, ambulances and hospitals, which has intensified in recent days. “We, at the Ministry of Health, ask the United Nations and all UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, and all peace lovers to intervene immediately”, Deputy Health Minister Munther Al-Sharif said. “Doctors and medical teams have been prevented by soldiers manning roadblocks in Gaza and the West Bank from reaching their jobs and some medical staff were arrested on the roads”, he said, and blamed the deaths of 23 people on delays at Israeli checkpoints. IDF spokesman Jacob Dallal denied the allegations and said Israel had never attacked or impeded the work of Palestinian medical staff and ambulances. A spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the ICRC had also encountered problems moving medical equipment about as it tried to help the Palestinian Red Crescent Society operate in the West Bank. (Reuters)

During the meeting between Chairman Arafat and the UN Special Coordinator (Terje Rød-Larsen), EU Envoy (Miguel Moratinos), the US Consul General in Jerusalem (Ronald Schlicher), and Russian Envoy (Andrei Vdovin), in an effort to calm the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the following demands were presented to Chairman Arafat: arrest of the assassins of Minister Ze’evy; arrest of the ten most wanted Palestinians on the list given by Foreign Minister Peres during their meeting on 26 September; immediate renewal of security coordination talks; as well as the undertaking of a series of actions against terror organization operating in the PA areas, such as the closing down of their offices. The envoys also said “these steps should be matched with reciprocity by Israel in full compliance with existing agreements, including the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces and security personnel” from Palestinian-controlled areas and an end to their assassination policy. Inside Israel, US Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer would replace Mr. Schlichler as the US representative for meetings with Israeli leaders. (AFP, Ha’aretz)


In a statement, the South African Foreign Ministry called on Israel “to demonstrate its commitment to the Tenet understandings and the Mitchell recommendations”. “All violations of the ceasefire should be dealt with through the Joint Security Committee”, the statement said. While criticizing Israel for failing to recognize the opportunities offered by the reduction of violence, the statement warned that “there is a real danger that the confrontation may further escalate, impacting negatively on the whole region. International peace and security is increasingly being threatened by developments in the Middle East”. The statement also urged the international community to “act decisively to end the violence, to pressure Israel to withdraw from Palestinian towns and villages and to ensure that unconditional negotiations begin as soon as possible”. The South African Government agreed with calls for the establishment of a viable Palestinian State while accepting the right of the existence of an Israeli State within secure borders, the statement said. (XINHUA)

Israeli tank fire killed two Palestinians in Tulkarm, Palestinian medical officials said. A 13-year-old Palestinian boy died from wounds sustained in an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Qalqiliya the previous day, a hospital spokesman said. Separately, 24-year-old Palestinian policeman Mohammed Samaneh died from injuries sustained during clashes in Ramallah the previous week. Seven people were also injured in Israeli tank shelling in Bethlehem, Palestinian medical officials said. (AFP, DPA, EFE)

UN Special Coordinator Terje Rød-Larsen said in a press release that the Middle East was at “the most dangerous moment in a decade”, and stressed the need for leaders on both sides to take decisions in the long-term security and political interests of the Palestinian and Israeli people. Despite the current deep crisis and impasse, Mr. Rød-Larsen said it was still possible to see a road forward. “A majority of Israelis support the creation of a Palestinian State, a majority of Israelis support the evacuation of the settlements, a majority of Palestinians still support a peace deal with Israel and a majority of Palestinians still support reconciliation with Israel in the context of a peace deal”, Mr. Rød-Larsen said. (UNSCO Press Release 23 October 2001)

Thousands of Christians, among them leaders of the major churches, walked in Bethlehem to Manger Square to deliver their message of peace. “From this very holy place, we call upon people all over the world to come out and protect peace and justice,” said Anglican Bishop Riah Abu al-Assal at the Church of the Nativity. “There can be no justice without an end to the occupation.” (AFP)


The IDF shot dead three Palestinian men in Tulkarm overnight, Palestinian hospital sources said. Five other Palestinians were said to have been injured in the incident. The three men armed men had been ambushed by the IDF. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

Israeli tanks and troops shelled Bethlehem and the adjacent Aida refugee camp through the night. The IDF said it was returning Palestinian gunfire from Aida towards the settlement of “Gilo”. A Palestinian motorist was killed by Israeli gunfire, ambulance workers said, and local medical officials said two Palestinians were being treated for shrapnel wounds. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The IDF killed at least six Palestinians in the West Bank village of Beit Rima, near Ramallah during a major overnight air, armour and infantry assault. Two of those killed were identified by the IDF as PFLP activists. Palestinians said some of the wounded in Beit Rima bled to death after the IDF closed off the area and refused to allow ambulances in to treat the wounded. An IDF spokesman said only that there was a “delay” in allowing Palestinian ambulances to reach the wounded, and that Israeli and Palestinian doctors had treated the wounded on-site. Residents said the IDF took over several homes in the village and went through every home arresting at least 20 people after imposing a curfew. They said 15 armoured vehicles and 20 military jeeps, backed up by Apache helicopters invaded the village. Israel Radio said the IDF had arrested 11 people out of 15 on a “wanted” list. The IDF West Bank commander said Palestinians involved in the assassination a week ago of Minister Ze’evy had also been arrested during the raid, although he did not know whether they were the actual killers. A statement by the PA strongly condemned the killings in Beit Rima. “The Palestinian leadership considers both Sharon and [IDF Chief of the General Staff Shaul] Mofaz as directly involved in this massacre that was planned in advance,” the statement said. A Palestinian also died in the village of Abu Dis, near Jerusalem, after he had been shot overnight while attempting to throw a Molotov cocktail at Israeli troops. Near Hebron, Israeli settlers opened fire on a car carrying Palestinian labourers wounding six of them, one critically, Palestinians said. Another Palestinian died in Ramallah of wounds sustained in fighting four days ago. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

Responding to the US demand for an “immediate”, then later revised to an “as soon as possible” withdrawal from Palestinian-controlled areas, Prime Minister Sharon told the Knesset that the IDF would stay until it achieved its mission, which he defined as “avoiding terrorism and arresting terrorists.” He also said the IDF had been very successful in destroying Palestinian “terrorist organisations’ and had made “very important arrests” during the overnight raid in Beit Rima. Mr. Sharon gave no further details of the arrests. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

The following statement on the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, was issued by the Office of the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:
European Commission President Romano Prodi told the European Parliament that the EU would draw up an economic development and reconstruction plan for the Palestinian areas once there was peace in the region. EU officials said Mr. Prodi had already discussed his ideas with Foreign Minister Peres and had the backing of the Israeli authorities. (AFP)

The International Press Institute (IPI), a media lobby group, condemned an Israeli decision to bar journalists from Beit Rima. The IDF declared the village of Beit Rima and a second town, Deir Ghassana, closed military zones, making them off-limits to reporters during the military operation, the IPI said in a statement. IPI Director Johann Fritz wrote to Prime Minister Sharon condemning the closures as “gross violations” of human rights and calling on him to reopen the villages “immediately and unconditionally. “This latest violation of press freedom appears to be part of a concerted effort by the [IDF] to control what is being reported about the resumption of armed hostilities in the region” he wrote. (AFP)

At a news conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Secretary Powell said that “at this time it would be appropriate for the Israeli Government to immediately withdraw from Area A and villages they have occupied and try not to let this cycle of violence become even more intense”. (AFP, Reuters)


The IDF pulled out of Beit Rima before sunrise “after they conducted operational activity to prevent terror against the citizens of Israel and IDF soldiers during the past few days”, an IDF Spokesperson’s announcement said. The IDF said five Palestinian gunmen had been killed, while the PA accused Israel of killing nine and called it a “massacre”, for which Prime Minister Sharon and IDF Chief of the General Staff Shaul Mofaz were personally responsible. In the village, owners sat amid the rubble of three houses they said had been demolished during the raid. Another was burnt to cinders. Several cars and electricity poles had been flattened by tanks. Prime Minister Sharon described the assault on Beit Rima and the extended incursions into and sieges of Palestinian areas as a major success against “terrorist organisations”, and said they had led to the capture of two of the assassins of Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze’evy. Head of Palestinian Security in the Gaza Strip, Colonel Mohamed Dahlan, accused Israel of fabricating the story that it had entered the village to arrest Mr. Ze’evy’s assassins. He said the assassins had been arrested some days earlier and the IDF incursions into areas under Palestinian control and the subsequent killings and additional arrests could not be justified. The PA declared 25 October a day of mourning for the Beit Rima dead. (AFP, DPA, IDF official website, Reuters)

Three Palestinians, one of them a Force 17 member and another a Hamas member, were shot dead by Israeli troops in the Bethlehem area. A fourth Palestinian was killed in an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in a refugee camp close to Tulkarm. (AFP, EFE)

B’Tselem called IDF’s seizure of West Bank areas under Palestinian control “an indiscriminate assault” against hundreds of thousands of civilians. In an interim report on the week-long incursion, it accused the army of having an “itchy trigger finger” and said 21 Palestinian civilians, including five minors and four women, had been killed as of 17 October and not including the Beit Rima incursion. “An indiscriminate assault on this scale constitutes collective punishment, forbidden under international law”, the group said. During the operation, B'Tselem said, the army had demonstrated a disregard for human life. The report also criticized blockades imposed by Israel on most West Bank cities, calling them “unprecedented in their severity” and adding that travel restrictions “obstruct access to medical treatment and cause a shortage of food in a number of places”. (Reuters)

EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana held talks with King Abdullah of Jordan and said the EU was “fully engaged” in mediating between Palestinians and Israelis. Mr. Solana deplored the recent Israeli attacks on Palestinian town and said Israel must pull out its troops from Palestinian-ruled areas it had entered over the previous week. He also urged Chairman Arafat to put in “all the efforts” to end attacks on Israelis. Mr. Solana later left Jordan for further talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, including a meeting with Foreign Minister Peres. He said he hoped meetings expected to take place in Brussels and at the UN General Assembly in November would provide the right climate for a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (AFP, Reuters)

Archimandrite Atallah Hanna, spokesman for the Greek Orthodox church in Jerusalem, called for urgent UN intervention to halt Israel’s “terrible massacres” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In a message to the UN Human Rights Commission, Archimandrite Hanna requested an “immediate and rapid intervention to save the Palestinian people from the terrible massacres being carried out by the occupation forces”. In the message carried by WAFA he also called for the Commission to press for a lifting of Israel’s blockade of Palestinian towns and villages. (AFP)

Labour MKs Haim Ramon and Shlomo Ben-Ami, unveiled their proposal for unilateral separation from the Palestinians. Under the proposal, Israel would announce its intention to withdraw from vast areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and then hand over administration of that territory to “international management” led by the US. (AP, The Jerusalem Post, The Jordan Times)


The Israeli security cabinet approved a phased withdrawal from six West Bank Areas “A”, but gave no timetable and said it would proceed only if the Palestinians met Israeli security demands. As a first step in the phased withdrawal, Israel would pull out of Bethlehem and adjoining Beit Jala. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Israeli FM Peres met with Russian Middle East envoy Andrei Vdovin, UN envoy Terje Rød-Larsen, and EU envoy Miguel Moratinos. (The Jerusalem Post)

According to the IDF, four Palestinians had tried to infiltrate the “Dugit” settlement in the Gaza Strip, in the second operation of its type this month by Hamas. An IDF patrol intercepted them, and shot dead three of them. The fourth escaped. IDF Radio reported no Israeli casualties and said the attackers had come from the nearby Beit Lahiya village. (AFP, DPA)

A Palestinian was shot dead in an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers at the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem, and another died of his wounds, after having been critically wounded by Israeli gunfire in the Gaza Strip on 8 October. (AFP, DPA)

A statement by Médecins Sans Frontières said: “MSF doctors and psychologists currently on the ground report the worsening of the state of health of their patients, in the absence of regular medical healthcare. Isolation and daily violence are causing, among both adults and children, depression syndromes and post-traumatic shock.” The statement referred to "the extreme violence" of recent Israeli incursions into the Palestinian Territory and the "climate of terror in which Palestinian families live." (AFP)

During a four-hour joint security meeting between the Israelis and the Palestinians held near Tel Aviv under the auspices of the US, agreement was reached on a withdrawal of the IDF from Bethlehem and Beit Jala the following day. It was also agreed that the security “committee would meet again on [28 October] to decide on Israeli withdrawals from other reoccupied areas,” a high-ranking Palestinian security official said on condition of anonymity. An Israeli Defence Ministry spokesman said the deal had been reached after the Palestinians agreed to implement a ceasefire in the area after the withdrawal. (AFP, Reuters)

Chairman Arafat told German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer that he accepted a proposal received from the four envoys from the UN, the EU, Russian and the US, agreeing to the establishment of a EU monitoring system, which would check if the PA abided by its commitment to arrest terrorists and keeps those it arrests in prison. Chairman Arafat said he had arrested 73 members of the PFLP, as well as activists from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. (Ha’aretz)


A 24-year old member of Fatah was killed by heavy machine-gun fire from an Israeli tank during a tank incursion into the centre of Tulkarm. (AFP, Reuters)

The IDF shot and wounded four Palestinians during clashes in Bethlehem. Prime Minister Sharon later decided to freeze “until further notice” the Israeli troops withdrawal from Bethlehem and Beit Jala, due to continued Palestinian fire on the settlement of “Gilo”. Chairman Arafat denounced Israel’s decision to delay the withdrawal saying it “showed the absence of a will for peace.” (AFP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post)


An Israeli soldier and four women were killed and 28 others injured in a shooting attack in the northern Israeli city of Hadera. Among the injured, three were in a serious condition after two Palestinian gunmen opened fire from a vehicle at pedestrians on Hanassi Boulevard in the center of the city. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for the killing of the Fatah activist in Tulkarm on 27 October. Israeli security officials said the two gunmen also belonged to PA security forces. The PA later condemned the attack, saying it had ordered the arrest of those responsible for planning the attack, adding that they would be charged with “violating the ceasefire, which is the highest Palestinian national interest.” The two gunmen were shot dead by an Israeli police patrol car on the scene at the time of the attack. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters, XINHUA)

Former US senator George Mitchell said he was convinced war weariness, which led to a breakthrough in Northern Ireland would eventually bring a solution to the Middle East conflict. People in Northern Ireland had been “especially sick of the moving and emotional sight of those small white coffins holding innocent children being buried,” Mr. Mitchell said. “I think the same thing is going to happen in the Middle East,” he told the BBC. Mr. Mitchell said during his most recent meetings with Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat, both had told him: “This must stop because life has become unbearable for our people”, adding that “if anything, it’s become even more unbearable in the months since I had those conversations and I think, eventually this conflict has to stop and they’ve got to learn to live side-by-side in negotiation and in peace.” Mr. Mitchell said the numbers of people killed in the latest escalation of Israeli-Palestinian violence were “shockingly high” and urged the international community to take urgent steps to persuade the two sides to return to peace talks. (Reuters)


The IDF completed its withdrawal from Bethlehem and Beit Jala without incidents. “Our forces pulled out of the positions they had been occupying in the Bethlehem sector for about 10 days,” an IDF spokesman told AFP. “The withdrawal was preceded by a meeting during which the two parties reached agreement on Palestinian responsibility for maintaining calm in the region,” the spokesman added. Following the withdrawal, Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer said Israel was prepared to withdraw its forces from the other Palestinian-controlled cities still under army blockade if the PA could maintain security. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters, XINHUA)

Chairman Arafat said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show that he was ready to control Palestinian militant activists and had already arrested many of them. Mr. Arafat said he was “completely” committed to the peace process, and said he could control Palestinian fighters and the Hamas militant group, noting he had done so under previous Israeli Governments. (Reuters)


Israel continued to hold positions in Nablus, Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarm and Qalqilya. IDF forces also remained in the village of Habla near Tulkarm, searching for Palestinians wanted by Israel. New military roadblocks were set up around Tulkarm. (AFP, Arutz 7, MENO)

Ma’ariv carried what it said were details of a draft peace proposal by Foreign Minister Peres, including the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian State and an initial Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, with settlements there dismantled “as a goodwill gesture.” A decision on the final status of Jerusalem would be left for future negotiations and an international commission, including the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, would discuss the issue of Palestine refugees. (AFP, Arutz 7, DPA, Reuters)

Minister Sha’ath and Andreas Reinicke, the German representative to the PA, signed an agreement worth US$110 million on construction of sewage treatment plants in the central Gaza Strip and Nablus, and a water filtration plant in Hebron. PA Minister of Health Riyad Al-Zaanoun and Larry Garber, director of USAID in Jerusalem, signed an agreement worth US$34.7 million to build, over a period of five years, 100 health centres for pregnant women and for children. (AFP)

Pope John Paul II called for the cessation of violence in the Middle East and a resumption of peace talks during an audience with Chairman Arafat, a Vatican spokesman said. (AFP)

Israeli bulldozers destroyed at least six Palestinian houses in Beit Hanina and Shu’fat, north of East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem municipality had recently destroyed three Palestinian homes built on the route of a planned highway. Meretz MK Mussi Raz criticized what he called the biased and unacceptable licensing standards for construction in East Jerusalem that left Palestinians no alternative but to build without permits since the system was designed to tie them up in red tape indefinitely. (AFP, Arutz 7, Ha’aretz)

According to Palestine Media Watch, Saeb Nasser, Deputy Governor of the Ramallah district, announced the losses of almost US$18 million by public and private enterprises in the district over the past 13 months. (The Jerusalem Post)

US State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said Israel’s demolition of four Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem was “highly provocative” and an obstacle to restoring calm between Israelis and Palestinians, adding “there must be a halt to the demolition and destruction of Palestinian homes and property and to incursions into Palestinian territory”. (AFP, Reuters)

Three young women and a taxi driver were wounded when the IDF opened fire on their car along a main Gaza Strip road near the crossing to the “Netzarim” settlement. Security officials said the IDF opened fire on the civilians without provocation. A 22-year-old Palestinian man, known among Palestinians to be mentally ill, was seriously wounded by shots in the chest, abdomen and thigh. (AFP, DPA)


Four Palestinians, including a baby, were injured overnight by Israeli tank fire in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian security officials said. Two of the injured were in a serious condition. (AFP)

Eight suspected Palestinian militants were arrested and two Palestinian policemen were wounded as IDF troops and tanks supported by helicopters entered Area A near Jenin. Meanwhile, an Israeli helicopter missile killed a Hamas militant in Hebron in a strike the IDF said prevented a bomb attack in Israel. The 30-year-old was wanted by Israel for the killing of two settlers and for a number of other attacks. He had been sentenced by Palestinian courts to life in prison but had escaped from custody four times. Another Hamas leader was killed in Tulkarm by an IDF sniper. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

Speaking in the Knesset, Prime Minister Sharon told a gathering of the World Jewish Congress representatives he was ready to negotiate with the Palestinians, and that he himself would lead the talks, although he gave no time frame for a possible meeting. “We are ready to negotiate. Myself, I am going to lead those negotiations, and I really believe in that.” (AFP, DPA)

The IDF shot and killed two Palestinian security officers near Nablus in what Palestinian sources said was an ambush while the IDF described it as a chase after gunmen. A Palestinian security source said the two men were travelling in a car with two other men when the IDF opened fire on them at the entrance of the village of Bizzariyn, northwest of Nablus. The IDF said in a statement that troops had opened fire at four armed “terrorists” and killed two of them after the Palestinians had shot at an Israeli car driving nearby. The other two men fled. (AFP, Reuters)

Speaking in Oslo at a joint press conference with Chairman Arafat, Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said Norway was ready to support the Middle East peace process. The Prime Minister said he had urged Prime Minister Sharon to withdraw all troops from Palestinian areas in the West Bank and to stop the blockade on the Palestinians. He had also called on Chairman Arafat to find and put on trial those responsible for the assassination of Minister Ze’evy. (ITAR-TASS)

The creation of a Palestinian State was vital to ensuring peace in the Middle East, French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine told the National Assembly. The Minister stressed that Israeli and Palestinian leaders should take responsibility before history and their peoples and pass the most difficult path. (ITAR-TASS)

Russia is firmly in favour of continuing the Middle East peace process based on UN Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and other agreements and understandings providing for the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights, including the right to establish its own State, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Chairman Arafat at Oslo. Mr. Ivanov reiterated Moscow’s unreserved support for the Mitchell plan and stressed that the most important thing at the moment was to stop the violence. He said he supported an international initiative, in coordination with the US, the EU and the UN, rather than an individual Russian one. Chairman Arafat said he had discussed with Mr. Ivanov and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen “how to protect and push forward the peace process and how to implement what has been agreed upon”. He expressed the hope that there would be international pressure on Israel to pull out of reoccupied Palestinian areas. (AFP, ITAR-TASS, Reuters)

Two Palestinian police officers were killed and several others injured when Israeli tanks shelled a PA police post at the western entrance of Qalqilya. Radio Israel quoted IDF sources as saying that Israeli forces had been trying to capture three Palestinian militants and when they refused to surrender they were forced to open fire. According to AFP, the latest killings brought the death toll since the beginning of the intifada to 944, including 739 Palestinians and 183 Israelis. (AFP, XINHUA)


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