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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 December 2001

3
D i v i s i o n f o r P a l e s t i n i a n R i g h t s



Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine

Monthly media monitoring review


December 2001

1

Responding to what was said to be a high security alert, Israeli tanks and armoured carriers entered areas under Palestinian control in Jenin and Tulkarm and tightened the blockade of the two cities, as well as of Nablus. Palestinian sources said two youths were killed in the Jenin area, one as he and other youths threw stones at a tank deployed at a village close to Jenin, the other when he tried to pass a road blocked by an Israeli armoured vehicle. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

2

Suicide bombings on 1 December in Jerusalem and, on 2 December, on a Haifa bus in northern Israel, as well as a shooting attack on settlers in the northern Gaza Strip also on 2 December, left 26 Israelis dead and some 200 wounded. World leaders condemned the attacks but expressed hope that peace moves would not be sabotaged. Following the attacks, the IDF sealed off areas under Palestinian control and imposed severe restrictions on movement in the West Bank. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

“Chairman Arafat must do everything in his power to find those who murdered innocent Israelis and bring them to justice”, President Bush said after a rushed meeting with Prime Minister Sharon in Washington, before the latter’s emergency return to Israel. (AFP)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:
(UN Press Release SG/SM/8056 of 3 December 2001)

Following the suicide bombings in Israel, the Palestinian leadership under Chairman Arafat declared a state of emergency in areas under PA control, giving police sweeping powers to arrest militants. In a statement prepared for the Palestinian media, the PA Security Council banned the carrying of firearms by non-security personnel, the use of loudspeakers in the streets and the disruptions in universities and schools, and said holding of meetings or demonstrations required special permission. (AFP)

The IDF said one of its patrols near the Palestinian town of Jenin had killed four Palestinians after coming under fire. A fifth Palestinian, a member of Fatah, had been killed near Tulkarm, a Palestinian security source said. (AFP)

3

Following the PA declaration of a state of emergency, Palestinian security services had reportedly arrested more than 100 Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

A Palestinian intelligence officer and Fatah member died of his wounds, following an explosion in Bethlehem blamed by Palestinian officials on Israel but denied by an IDF spokeswoman. Fifteen more people were injured in the explosion. (AFP)

Israel launched air strikes in retaliation for the Palestinian suicide attacks of the previous days. Israeli Apache helicopters fired missiles into the heliport used by Chairman Arafat in Gaza City, destroying two helicopters and seriously damaging a third. F-16 fighter-bombers attacked PA police installations in Jenin. Palestinian targets were also hit in Bethlehem. The number of casualties was not clear but several people were reported wounded, some seriously. Later on, according to Palestinian security officials, Israeli tanks rolled into Ramallah, advancing to a few hundred metres from the offices of Chairman Arafat, while IDF bulldozers were said to be tearing up the only runway at the Gaza international airport, used by Chairman Arafat for his international trips. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

Responding to Israel’s initial retaliatory attacks on Palestinian targets, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Israel had “the right ... to defend herself” and repeated US calls for Chairman Arafat to arrest the plotters of the latest violence and crack down on militants. He noted that it was important that all parties considered the repercussions of whatever actions they took, “so that peace can still be achieved”. Asked if the US would support a move by Israel to topple Chairman Arafat, Mr. Fleischer said President Bush supported renewed dialogue between Israel and Mr. Arafat. US special envoy Anthony Zinni remained in Israel as a symbol of US hope that peace could still be achieved, Mr. Fleischer added. (DPA, Reuters)

In an address broadcast live on Israeli radio and television, Prime Minister Sharon said he considered Chairman Arafat “directly responsible for everything that is happening” and vowed that Israel would “take the necessary measures as long as terrorism lasts”. He said a “war of terror” had been forced on Israel, a “war that claim[ed] innocent victims daily”. He added that “the aim of this war of terror, the aim of the terrorists, their aids and dispatchers, the aim of those who enable them to perpetrate their acts quietly without disturbance, is to expel us from here” and warned that “Those who rise up against us to kill us are responsible for their own destruction”. “Just as the United States is conducting its war against international terror, using all its might against terror, so will we”, Mr. Sharon noted. (AFP)

The Palestinian leadership accused Prime Minister Sharon of having launched a “total and destructive war on the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority” and called on the UN Security Council “to bring an urgent halt to the Israeli aggression and to send international observers to the [Palestinian] territories”, WAFA reported. It also called for Arab and Muslim countries “to face up to this serious aggression... which threatens Arab and international efforts to save the peace process”. According to the official Qatari news agency QNA, Chairman Arafat had earlier called for Qatar to convene an urgent summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference that it chaired. (AFP, Reuters)

Speaking in Paris after a meeting with his French counterpart, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, whose country held the EU presidency, called on Israel and the Palestinians to end their cycle of violence and re-start peace talks. “The attacks in Israel must cease and the reprisals must cease. These military and violent actions have reached the limit”, Mr. Verhofstadt said. (AFP)

The United Nations General Assembly took action on the four draft resolutions considered under agenda item “Question of Palestine”. The draft on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (A/56/L.19) was adopted as resolution 56/33 with 106 votes in favour, five against and 48 abstentions; the draft on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat (A/56/L.20) was adopted as resolution 56/34 with 107 votes in favour, five against and 47 abstentions; the draft on the Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat (A/56/L.21) was adopted as resolution 56/35 with 153 votes in favour, four against and three abstentions; and the draft on the Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (A/56/L.22) was adopted as resolution 56/36 with 131 votes in favour, six against and 20 abstentions. (Journal of the United Nations, 4 December 2001 (No. 2001/235))

Following a five-hour meeting, the Israeli Government declared the PA a “terrorist-supporting entity.” The security cabinet would decide on the specific steps to be taken in light of this decision. The Labour Party ministers refused to vote on the matter, after their proposal to delay a decision by a week had been rejected. The Government also declared the Tanzim, Force-17 and Fatah as terrorist entities, and decided to prevent Chairman Arafat from leaving the autonomous areas. (AFP, AP, Arutz 7, DPA, Reuters)

4

IDF helicopter gunships struck targets in Gaza City and the Khan Yunis refugee camp, as well as in Ramallah, Salfit, Tulkarm and Qalqilya, killing three Palestinians and wounding more than 150, 20 of them seriously. One Palestinian schoolboy was killed and around 60 wounded in an F-16 attack on a Palestinian preventive security HQ in northern Gaza City, though an IDF statement denied the report, in contradiction to TV footage and an AFP eyewitness report. Three missiles fired by Israeli helicopters hit a police station only a few metres from Chairman Arafat’s Ramallah office, as he was working inside. IDF sources said this was just the first stage of the operation and that there would be an escalation of Israeli military action in the following days. (AFP, Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, Reuters)

President Bush announced that any organization discovered to financially support Hamas, currently or in the past, would have its assets frozen. So far, the following organizations had been identified: the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (Richardson, Texas), Al-Aqsa International Bank and the Beit el-Mal Holdings Company (both based in the West Bank). (Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

IDF troops partially reoccupied Nablus, Ramallah and the village of Beitunia in the Jenin area. A member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades was shot dead south of Nablus after more than 20 Israeli tanks had driven 1 km into Area A. IDF troops shot and killed a Fatah activist in a gun battle in the hills around Nablus. (AFP, Arutz 7)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in reaction to the escalating violence in the region:


(UN Press Release SG/SM/8064 of 4 December 2001)

The PLO representative in Germany, Abdallah Franghi, told Berlin’s Inforadio that United Nations troops should be used to “clearly separate Israelis and Palestinians from each other and let Palestinian Chairman Arafat manage his territories”. (AFP)

Chairman Arafat’s Advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh told AFP that Mr. Arafat had met the US Consul-General from Jerusalem, Ronald Schlicher, and an aide to US envoy Anthony Zinni after Israel’s air strikes. No further details were provided from the meeting, which took place in Ramallah. (AFP)

5

European Commission spokesman Gunnar Wiegand said “the qualification which has been done by the Israeli Cabinet of the Palestinian Authority as an organization sponsoring or supporting terrorism is not shared by the European Union”, adding the Belgian EU Presidency on the previous day had declared that destabilizing the PA would not help stop the cycle of violence and that Israel needed a peace partner. “I have no hesitation in saying that this partner is and should remain the Palestinian Authority”, Mr. Wiegand noted. (Reuters)

The Geneva conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention concerning the application of international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) was attended by 122 participants, of which 114 Contracting Parties and 8 other participants and observers. It adopted a final Declaration without a vote, reaffirming the applicability of the Fourth Geneva convention to the OPT, including East Jerusalem. The Chairman of the Conference, Swiss Ambassador Peter Maurer, said that the Declaration was balanced. With the aim to protect the civilian population, the Declaration recalled the general obligations of all High Contracting Parties, those of the parties to the conflict, as well as the specific obligations of the Occupying Power. Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said at the conference that the protection of the victim should be the overriding concern of the UN and its agencies and programs, while reiterating the call for the establishment of an international monitoring presence in the OPT. (AFP, XINHUA)

Prime Minister Sharon decided to grant Chairman Arafat 12 hours to arrest Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In a series of telephone calls between Chairman Arafat and Foreign Minister Peres, Mr. Arafat had complained that Israeli air strikes were preventing him from making arrests of Palestinian militants. According to Israel Radio, it was decided that Mr. Arafat would be granted 12 hours in which to mobilize his forces and arrest Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists wanted by Israel for involvement in suicide bombings and other killings. Israel had provided Mr. Arafat with a list of wanted Palestinian terrorists, Israel Radio reported. The Israeli Defence Ministry said the IDF had suspended its strikes against the PA for an indeterminate period to test Chairman Arafat’s resolve to crack down on Islamic militant groups. (AFP, Comtex Scientific Corporation, XINHUA)

President Chirac was quoted by his spokeswoman as telling a cabinet meeting that “the Israeli Government is responding to the odious terrorist acts on Jerusalem and Haifa, which France condemns without reserve, by destroying what remains of the Palestinian Authority and the Oslo Accords”. Earlier French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine had urged Israel back to the negotiating table with the Palestinians and had said he hoped the current violence had not driven the peace process to the point of no return, adding that he hoped the Israelis understood that they had to negotiate with the Palestinians. “They can not just crush them. They need someone to talk to, someone to work with afterwards”, he said. (DPA, Reuters)

Another Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and slightly injured eight other people in Jerusalem. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the act. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

Secretary of State Powell said at a news conference in Ankara that Chairman Arafat had yet to show “significant results” in reining in militants. Mr. Powell said he had taken note of another suicide bombing in Jerusalem, saying “as long as bombs keep going off, as long as this kind of activity does not stop, then it will be very difficult to put in place a ceasefire leading to the resumption of confidence-building activities.” (AFP, Reuters)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher called for the US to exert pressure on Israel to halt its attacks on the Palestinians. President Mubarak, meanwhile, had decided to send Egypt’s intelligence chief, General Omar Suleiman, on a mission to Israel to try to calm the situation, a presidential source said, without specifying the date of the mission. (AFP)

Israeli Information Minister Tzipi Livni said Israel would not bomb Palestinian prisons where wanted Palestinian militants were being held. “Furthermore, Israel has no intention of attacking Arafat personally”, Mr. Livni noted, adding that the same message had been communicated to the US. (AFP, XINHUA)

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters at his official residence that he hoped Israelis and Palestinians would return to the negotiating table to end the recent surge of violence and attain peace in the Middle East, Kyodo News reported. Earlier in the day, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman had said Japan was calling on the two sides to resume peace talks. “We are very concerned. As we have repeatedly said, we believe it is important that this tense situation gets under control and the pertinent parties resume their peace negotiations”, Press Secretary Norio Hattori told a press conference. “From this standpoint, Japan reiterates its hope that the parties will exercise the utmost self-restraint and make efforts to stop the violence”, Mr. Hattori said. (XINHUA)

The European Commission announced it was allocating an additional 7.5 million euros (US$6.69 million) in emergency food aid to victims of the conflict in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The aid would allow distribution of food to 217,000 Palestinian families, the Commission said in a statement. The latest aid allocation brought the total EU aid to the Palestinian areas to 27.6 million euros for the current year. (AFP)

The IDF had shot and wounded a 15-year-old Palestinian boy in Rafah, hospital and Palestinian security sources said. (AFP)

Pope John Paul II, at a regular weekly audience, said: “I launch a new, pressing appeal to the international community so that it helps the Israelis and Palestinians with greater determination and courage to break free of this useless spiral of death. Let the negotiations start again at once so that peace, which is so eagerly desired, can be found.” (AFP, Reuters)

Replying to questions in parliament, Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said that while India was “disturbed” by the escalation of violence in the Middle East and the growing number of civilian casualties, “such incidents did not justify air attacks on Palestinian targets”. He added that there was no change in India’s position, which recognized the PA and its leader Yasser Arafat. “Nothing should be done to undermine Arafat,” Mr. Singh said. (AFP)

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov said the PA leadership should take more effective measures to stop terrorism and violence. Mr. Saltanov also urged Israel to show political farsightedness in order “not to allow events to become absolutely uncontrollable”, adding that “Russia, jointly with the US co-sponsor, the EU, the UN, and other interested sides, [would] act in the interests of de-escalation and normalization of the situation”. (ITAR-TASS)

UNRWA said in a statement that 23 international workers in Gaza City would be temporarily relocated to Jerusalem or Amman until the security situation improved. However, the statement said all of UNRWA’s 25 senior staff in the city would stay, in order to maintain a continuity of services for the Palestine refugees. (AFP)

Prime Minister Sharon outlined in the Knesset five actions that the PA should take before it could be considered to be effectively fighting terrorism: arrest terrorists and those who send them; dismantle terrorist organizations; collect illegal weapons, which would be given to the Americans for destruction under the Wye River Memorandum; conduct genuine military activities to thwart attacks; end anti-Israel incitement. He added that the Government’s operative decisions were: attacking any target belonging to a terrorist organization; no diplomatic contacts with the PA; restriction of movement of Palestinian leaders; attacking symbols and targets within the autonomous areas; tightening of closures; the entry of IDF into Area A; actions against impending terrorist attacks; and more. Speaking to the Likud faction in the Knesset, Mr. Sharon said he would step up the assassination campaign against Palestinians considered terror group leaders, promising an increase in “pinpoint prevention.” (AFP, AP, Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, Reuters)

The US House of Representatives passed a resolution “expressing solidarity with Israel in the fight against terrorism” and demanding a suspension of relations with the PA if it failed to take action against terrorism. The concurrent resolution, submitted by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Ca) and Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill) and co-signed by 56 other members of Congress, was approved by a vote of 384 to 11 and was expected to also sail through the Senate later. The resolution was considered to have mainly symbolic value. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

Amnesty International called for an end to the killing of civilians in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and for international observers to monitor the human rights situation. (AI press release MDE 15/109/2001, The Jerusalem Post-Internet Edition)

6

One Palestinian policeman was killed and another seriously injured and captured in an IDF tank incursion near the “Dugit” settlement in the Gaza Strip after a mortar attack. (AFP, Arutz 7, DPA, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher arrived in Israel, on his first visit there, in continuation of talks that had begun secretly the previous day with Ephraim Halevy, the head of Mossad, in Cairo. He met separately with Prime Minister Sharon, Foreign Minister Peres and President Katsav in Jerusalem, and said he had come to an agreement with Israel on the basic principle that there would be a Palestinian State existing alongside Israel “in security and cooperation.” He was later to meet Chairman Arafat in Ramallah. Ha’aretz reported that President Mubarak had also dispatched to Israel his chief of intelligence Omar Suleiman. (AFP, Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, The Jerusalem Post-Internet Edition, Reuters, XINHUA)

The Office of the IDF Spokesman issued a statement defending actions of the soldiers who had ordered six Palestinians to undress at a checkpoint near “Kfar Darom” the previous day. The soldiers were said to have been acting on intelligence information indicating that two of the six were suicide bombers on their way to another attack. A Reuters TV crew filmed part of the incident, in which Palestinians were ordered to strip to their underwear and then forced to march back and forth in the rain before being taken away in a jeep, according to witnesses. (Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

IDF and GSS raided the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) in Al-Bireh, east of Ramallah, seeking intelligence information and illegal weapons. According to Palestinian sources, the six watchmen in the location were placed under arrest and computers and data were confiscated. The whereabouts of the arrested PCBS staff were not known. (PCBS press release of 6 December 2001, Arutz 7)

US Secretary of State Powell, speaking to reporters during a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, recognized Chairman Arafat had made efforts to rein in extremists but urged him to do more. (AFP)

Israeli Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said Israel had no intention to bring down the PA. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

President Putin called for “all extremists and terrorists” in the Middle East to be arrested in a bid to end the recent spiral of violence. “At the same time, we think it would be wrong to set very high demands or conditions before asking them [Israelis and Palestinians] to sit down at the negotiating table,” the Russian leader said at the start of a three-day visit to Greece. (AFP)

A 45-year-old Palestinian teacher had died of a heart attack on the way to the Abu Dis hospital from his village near Hebron, Palestinian hospital officials said. Owing to the strict Israeli closure of West Bank roads, tightened even further after last weekend’s suicide attacks, the patient had to be driven via poorly maintained side roads and stop at each checkpoint. Hospital officials said at one point he had to be transferred from one ambulance to another because of a closed roadblock. (AFP)

According to the Ma’ariv, during a meeting in Ramallah, US envoy General Zinni had given Chairman Arafat a list with 19 steps that had to be taken by the Palestinian side in order to fight terror. The steps included arresting militants, interrogating suspects, closing explosives laboratories, ending arms smuggling and monitoring money streams to terror organizations, Ma’ariv said, quoting “senior PA officials”. (DPA)

7

Upon his return to Cairo from Israel, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told journalists he had tried to persuade the Israeli side that it could best protect itself by offering security to the Palestinians and that the crisis would not be resolved by military means but through negotiations. He said the Israeli Government had taken note of Egypt’s arguments but his efforts had failed to bridge the gap between the two sides. Mr. Maher also said he was convinced Chairman Arafat had already taken the necessary security measures. (AFP, DPA, XINHUA)

Israeli F-16 warplanes dropped two 1,000-pound bombs on the main PA police headquarters in Gaza City, reducing two four-storey buildings of the police training section to rubble and injuring at least 20 people. The IDF said the Gaza raids were aimed at “Palestinian Authority bodies that support and aid terrorist activity” and claimed the buildings housed a factory for mortar bombs. A PA police spokesman denied the charge. Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told Reuters the Israeli warplanes had “hit the same police forces who were supposed to be carrying out [the PA] obligations” to arrest extremists. Apart from the air raid, which also damaged four other nearby buildings in Gaza City, Israeli tanks and troops had made two incursions near Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, arresting several people and searching houses, Palestinian witnesses and security sources said. The alleged IDF objective was to catch Issam Abu Daka, a leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but he had already escaped. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit told a press conference in Ankara that, during a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Sharon on 4 December, it had become “very clear that Israel was inclined towards war”. He added that Mr. Sharon had openly expressed the desire “to be rid of Mr. Arafat”. A spokesman for Mr. Sharon denied that and said the Prime Minister had pledged to Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and President Bush that he would not hurt Mr. Arafat personally. Chairman Arafat’s advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh warned Israel that any attempt to dislodge Arafat was tantamount to “playing with fire”. (AFP, Reuters)

The PA had reached an agreement with Hamas, according to which the latter’s spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin would remain under arrest in his Gaza City house but the PA would remove all police forces guarding him, Palestinian sources said. In exchange, Sheikh Yassin had called for an end to violent protests during the mass funeral of a Hamas supporter shot dead by Palestinian police during clashes near Sheikh Yassin’s house the previous day. (DPA)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson called for independent observers to be sent to the Middle East in view of the continuing violence there. Such a move could bring humanitarian security for Israelis and Palestinians alike, Ms. Robinson said in Geneva. She expressed considerable concern over attacks on targets in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which resulted in the killing or injuring of civilians. Palestinian suicide attacks were also a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilian populations, she said. Ms. Robinson expressed the hope that the violence would soon be halted and that there would be a commitment to the resumption of peace talks. (DPA)

At a meeting brokered by General Zinni and in the presence of CIA personnel, Israeli and Palestinian security officials discussed issues related to stopping attacks on Israel by Palestinian militants, ending violence and resuming the peace talks. Israel Radio reported that the Israeli delegation was represented by Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter. The Palestinian delegation included the Preventive Security chiefs for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jibril Rajoub and Mohammed Dahlan respectively, as well as Intelligence Service chief Amin El-Hindi. An unidentified high-ranking US security official was quoted as saying that the talks had been “constructive”, adding that the two sides had made some progress in solving security matters, but more work and further meetings were needed to achieve tangible results. The official said that there would soon be another security meeting between the two sides, without specifying the date. (AFP, DPA, XINHUA)

Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, speaking at the Riksdag (Parliament), criticized the Israeli raid on the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics late on 5 December, saying this could not be considered “as part of the struggle against terrorism, but as pure harassment of the Palestinian authorities”. (AFP)

A poll published in Yediot Aharonot showed that 70 per cent of Israelis were in favour of the ongoing strikes against the PA. Seventy-four per cent supported the policy of targeted killings of Palestinian militants, despite the fact that 45 per cent admitted the policy was counter-productive and 75 per cent said Chairman Arafat himself should not be assassinated. A second poll published in Ma’ariv showed 56 per cent of Israelis supporting “government action to get rid of Arafat by ousting him from power”, while 34 per cent opposed such a proposal. Another 51 per cent said they would support the dismantling of the PA. However, 42 per cent of those polled said Israel must accelerate efforts to seal a peace accord with the Palestinians, while 12 per cent were happy with the status quo and 39 per cent said Israel should declare all-out war on the Palestinians. Some 49 per cent said the problem of violence would be resolved by the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, while 36 per cent thought the IDF should re-occupy areas under Palestinian control. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

In an interview on Israeli public television Chairman Arafat said he “extend[ed] his hand for peace” with Israel for the sake of Palestinian and Israeli children. He said he was ready to implement all the agreements, which had been concluded with Israel, and reiterated that the PA had publicly accepted a truce with Israel. He dismissed statements comparing him to Osama bin Laden and accused the Israeli media of carrying out a campaign of incitement against him. He also criticized the US “blind support” for Israel. Mr. Arafat announced that the PA security forces had arrested 17 militants wanted by Israel out of a list of 33 submitted by Israel through General Zinni. After the Arafat interview, Foreign Minister Peres said Israel would be making “the biggest mistake” in its history if it provoked the downfall of Chairman Arafat, as he would be replaced by Hamas and Islamic Jihad extremists. Mr. Peres said Israel was “working with Arafat” and the real test for him would be “deeds, not words”. (AFP)

The IDF announced it had killed two armed Palestinian militants near the “Beit Aryeh” settlement, in Area B between Qalqilya and Nablus, as they were preparing an attack. Fatah officials rejected the allegations. (AFP, XINHUA)

UNRWA appealed for US $330.7 million to fund its operations in 2002. Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, told donors at a pledging conference that although the new budget amount was $19 million higher than in 2001, it represented in fact a decline in real terms when inflation and the rapidly growing refugee population were taken into account. The total Palestine refugee population was expected to exceed four million in the course of next year, he said. (AFP)

8

Early in the day, Israeli helicopter gunships fired on Palestinian positions in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Later tanks rolled 500 metres inside the Palestinian-controlled city. Witnesses said tanks had fired shots while two bulldozers demolished a police post. An IDF spokesman said the incursion was in response to mortar rounds fired at the “Morag” settlement. Palestinian security officials also said the IDF fired tank or mortar rounds at the Khan Yunis refugee camp, causing serious damage. (AFP, Comtex Scientific Corporation, Reuters)

9

The Israeli security cabinet approved more military operations against PA targets after deciding the PA was still not taking substantial measures against terrorists and had not interrogated the suspects it had arrested. The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Sharon, Foreign Minister Peres, Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer, Finance Minister Silvan Shalom, and Interior Minister Eli Yishai. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, XINHUA)

PA Minister for Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath said at a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher in Cairo that Israel continued with its policy of violence against the Palestinians, although both sides were holding security talks under the auspices of US envoy Gen. Zinni. Israel considered itself “above the law” in pursuing its aggressive policy, Mr. Shaath said, and urged the world community to intervene actively to halt Israel’s “brutal” practices. Foreign Minister Maher appealed to the Israeli Government to stop aggressive acts and lift its siege on the Palestinians, adding that Israel’s continued assaults were challenging any real wish for peace in the region. (XINHUA)

Two Israeli tanks and a bulldozer made a brief incursion into the Palestinian-controlled city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources said. The troops penetrated some 40 metres into the city and destroyed three houses. The security sources said there had been no shooting or shelling from the area before the incursion. (AFP)

A joint statement issued by the armed wings of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said they would suspend attacks inside Israel until the end of Ramadan on the condition that Israel would stop the assassinations of Palestinian activists. However, Al-Jazeera TV and Israel Radio reported later that they had received a written statement from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, affiliated with Fatah, denying that they had agreed to the conditional truce. A senior Israeli security official dismissed any such offer, saying Israel had no choice but to continue to “act in self-defence” as long as the PA failed to “fight terrorism and make arrests.” (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

Eight Israelis were wounded in a suicide bombing attack at a bus station in Israel’s northern city of Haifa. The suicide bomber reportedly was a 20-year-old Islamic Jihad member from Jenin. The bomber, who was badly wounded in the blast, was shot dead by Israeli police. The PA issued a statement condemning the act and pledged to arrest and try those responsible. (AFP, XINHUA)

Following the suicide bombing in Haifa, Secretary of State Powell called on Chairman Arafat to take action against Hamas, saying “I think Chairman Arafat is capable of doing more than he has done so far and he has to deal with Hamas.” Mr. Powell told reporters while in flight, on his way to Moscow, that “the burden [was] right now on Mr. Arafat to do more to get the violence down to zero”. (AFP)

Chancellor Schröder and President Putin, at a joint press conference at Hanover airport, called for increased pressure on both the Palestinians and Israel to de-escalate violence in the Middle East. (AFP, XINHUA)

The IDF shot dead four Palestinian policemen and arrested 25 in a pre-dawn raid on the West Bank village of Anabta. The IDF said it was searching for terrorists and the policemen had opened fire at Israeli soldiers. In Jenin, a Palestinian security source said Israeli soldiers had shot dead a Palestinian taxi driver as he approached from the nearby village of Arabeh. (AFP, Reuters)

10

President Hosni Mubarak, in comments to the press after returning from a visit to Syria, said “asking Arafat to stop all violent acts would be impossible in the light of Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian houses, assassinating their leaders and imposing blockade on their villages and towns”. Mr. Mubarak also criticized Prime Minister Sharon for blocking Chairman Arafat’s travel to Qatar for a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. (AFP, XINHUA)

EU Foreign Ministers said in a statement from Brussels that the PA should commit itself immediately to “dismantling the terrorist networks of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including the arrest and trial of all suspects; a public appeal in Arabic for an end to the armed intifada”. They called on Israel to “withdraw its armed forces and stop extra-judicial killings [of Palestinian militants], lift the closures and restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people, freeze settlement, end the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure”. The Ministers mandated EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana to travel to the Middle East immediately, in an effort to end reciprocal violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians and help them return to peace talks. Mr. Solana would report back to an EU Summit in Brussels on 14 and 15 December. Foreign Minister Peres and PA Minister for Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath had both been in Brussels to address the EU Council of Ministers. (Reuters)

In an assassination attempt on a Palestinian activist, Israeli combat helicopters fired three missiles at three cars in a busy street in Hebron. A 16-year-old youth and a four-year-old boy were killed in the attack and five others were injured, one of them critically, hospital sources said. The presumed target of the attack, Mohammed Sidr, a leader of Islamic Jihad in Hebron, was seriously injured. (AFP, Comtex Scientific Corporation, DPA, Reuters)

Following talks with Prime Minister Sharon, Gen. Zinni met with Chairman Arafat in Ramallah. Chairman Arafat’s Advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh said “President Arafat asked Zinni to put pressure on Israel to stop its assassinations, its military escalation and to lift the blockade on Palestinian territories”. Mr. Arafat also said he was determined to cooperate with Gen. Zinni in his efforts to secure an Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire. (AFP)

In a statement issued at the end of their emergency meeting in Doha, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Foreign Ministers said they deplored “the contention that the Israeli aggression was in self-defence and reject[ed] the policies of unlimited support extended to Israel”. They called “on the international community ... especially the US, Russia and the EU to immediately intervene to stop the Israeli aggression”. The US was asked “to implement the positive elements contained in their vision of a settlement of the Palestinian question”, setting a “precise mechanism and calendar, to turn words into action”. A ministerial committee including representatives of Mali, Morocco, Qatar, Syria and the OIC Secretary-General was tasked with pursuing contacts with the UN Security Council, the US, Russia and the EU, in support of the Palestinians. The committee would also lobby for international observers to be sent to protect the Palestinian people. (AFP, Reuters)

In an interview with French television channel France 2 in Oslo, where he had earlier received the Nobel Peace Prize, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Chairman Arafat was “For the moment, … the only spokesman” for the Palestinians in any settlement of the conflict with Israel. Mr. Annan also said he believed that the two sides could not find peace alone, therefore there had to be “intervention from the outside, … from the international community”. He said he was working very closely with the EU, the US and Russia to try to find a means to move forward the peace process in the Middle East. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

11

Responding to the EU Foreign Ministers’ statement issued in Brussels the previous day, Prime Minister Sharon said in a statement that he was “satisfied with the EU’s call to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure of Hamas and Islamic Jihad”. “Israel is interested in easing restrictions on the Palestinian population not involved in terrorist activities but the unending terrorist attacks make it difficult to implement”, he added. The statement was released following talks in Jerusalem between Mr. Sharon and EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, who also met separately with US envoy Anthony Zinni. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Following their meeting in Ramallah and while speaking to reporters, EU High Representative Solana told Chairman Arafat he had in front of him “very difficult challenges, enormous difficulties to fight the terrorists” but he knew he had to do it. Mr. Solana stressed the EU was firmly behind Mr. Arafat and his leadership. For his part, Mr. Arafat said the recent EU statement was “balanced” and thanked Mr. Solana for his “important” visit. (AFP, XINHUA)

Despite earlier claims to the contrary by both Israelis and Palestinians, a joint security meeting went ahead in Jerusalem, with US participation. Israeli security officials expressed their satisfaction that the PA security forces were finally trying to crack down on Palestinian militants in earnest. US envoy Zinni put forward a proposal that the two sides commit themselves to a 48-hour period of calm, during which the Palestinians would continue their action against terrorist groups, whereas Israel would halt all assassinations of militants and attacks on PA installations. A statement issued later by Prime Minister Sharon’s office said Israel would “continue to act responsibly in order to avoid further escalation in the situation” but would “reply to every mortar bomb fired and every other act of terror”. The statement also said the IDF would intercept suicide operations planned against Israel, as a measure of self-defense. (AFP, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

In an interview published in Al-Hayat, West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti called for a dialogue between the PA and militant Islamist and nationalist groups, with the aim of agreeing on “a strategy in the face of the Israeli military campaign”. Mr. Barghouti said the dialogue should be based on “the right of the Palestinians to resist occupation in the territories occupied in 1967, a halt to arrests by the Palestinian Authority and a suspension of suicide attacks” inside Israel. In the face of US and international pressure and confronted with an Israeli military campaign, the intifada and the Palestinian leadership should be protected, Mr. Barghouti added. (AFP)

Israeli troops shot at a Palestinian car, which had allegedly tried to break through an army checkpoint near Tulkarm, killing the driver and a passenger. Another passenger who survived said the troops had opened fire after the vehicle had slowed down to pass the barrier and the three persons in the car fled in different directions. A resident of nearby Jaroushiyeh village said she had seen troops chasing two men into an olive grove on foot and then heard gunshots. Afterwards she saw the soldiers dragging one of the men and carrying the other one, she added. In a separate incident, three Palestinians were shot and wounded, one of them seriously, by Israeli soldiers near Nablus, as they tried to bypass an Israeli checkpoint. Israeli forces arrested five Fatah activists in villages near Bethlehem, according to witnesses. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli helicopter gunships fired at least five missiles into a Force-17 building between the towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia, north of Gaza City. The building was destroyed but no one was hurt in the attack, which the IDF said was in response to overnight Palestinian mortar fire on a nearby settlement that had slightly wounded an Israeli girl. Chairman Arafat’s adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh condemned the continued raids on Gaza as “a dangerous escalation which undermine[d] all the efforts of America and the international community to bring a ceasefire and restart the peace process” and “risk[ed] dragging the entire region towards violence and instability”. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

Four Palestinian civilians were killed and at least 17 police and civilians were injured when Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a security building in a residential area of Khan Yunis and the adjacent refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip late in the day, according to Palestinian medical sources. The fourth civilian died at the hospital, while two of the injured were said to be in critical condition. A half-hour after the first attack the helicopters returned and fired two more rockets at the building. Witnesses said the second raid also hit the refugee camp. The IDF said Palestinian militants were involved in firing mortars at posts guarding the “Gush Katif” settlement. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post-Internet Edition, Reuters)

12

Three Israeli tanks advanced 500 metres into Jenin, injuring 10 Palestinians. Palestinian security officials said the tanks were “shooting indiscriminately with heavy machine-gun fire on passers-by and houses” before pulling out. The IDF said the tanks had moved in after Palestinians had fired on one of their outposts. (AFP)

Palestinian militants ambushed a bus with bombs and gunfire in the West Bank killing 10 and wounding up to 30 near the “Emmanuel” settlement south of Nablus. Simultaneously, two Palestinian suicide bombers blew themselves up near a hotel in the “Gush Katif” settlement in the southern Gaza Strip, injuring four people. Hamas appeared to claim responsibility for the bus attack. Israeli F-16 warplanes circled the towns of Nablus and Ramallah, while the Israeli Government said it would retaliate, blaming Chairman Arafat for failing to arrest Palestinian militants. The PA issued a statement categorically rejecting charges of responsibility and condemning the attack. Prime Minister Sharon immediately summoned his security cabinet for an emergency session to examine Israel’s response. (AFP, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, The Jerusalem Post-Internet Edition, Reuters, XINHUA)

Referring to the latest bus attack and suicide bombers, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said “the latest violence underscore[d] a need for Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to take every step possible to reduce the violence and bring an end to the terrorism that [was] plaguing the region”. Mr. Fleischer added “it [was] very hard to begin a political dialogue when people [were] still being killed in the streets and wounded in the streets on an almost regular basis, and that [was] why the President [had] focused so strongly in calling Chairman Arafat to reduce the violence, to take responsibility”. (AFP, Reuters)

Following the attacks on Israelis, Chairman Arafat ordered the closure of all offices and institutions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in an address to the Swedish Parliament, said that peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians needed to “resume immediately”, noting that “if we were to come to the table determined to achieve peace but also determined to deal mercilessly with the terrorists and extremists, we may make much faster progress than with the current approach that we have”. He added that “the current approach of no violence, 100 per cent satisfaction on ceasefire, no violence for one day, two days, seven days in a way [had] given a veto to almost every extremist”. (AFP)

Israeli Water Commissioner Shimon Tal told Reuters at an international desalination conference that the Israelis and the Palestinians should plan joint desalination plants rather than argue over scarce water resources in any future peace deal. He said the Palestinians were drawing “relatively small” amounts of water from the coastal aquifer located under both Israel and the West Bank and only desalination plants could solve the area’s water shortages, noting that “these issues [were] often suggested as causes of future conflict but the solution [was] quite simple”. (Reuters)

Following the attack by Palestinian gunmen on an Israeli bus in the West Bank and the two suicide bomb explosions in the Gaza Strip, Israeli F-16 jets dropped at least nine bombs late in the day on Gaza City security buildings close to Chairman Arafat’s Gaza offices. According to Palestinian security officials the bombs hit naval police offices and the police headquarters, which had already been the target of air raids on 7 December, as well as the control tower of Gaza International Airport. A Palestinian woman with a heart condition died of shock caused by the bombing, the head of the emergency room at Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital told AFP; more than 10 people were hurt by shrapnel. F-16s also bombed a PA prison and a police station in the Jneid suburb of Nablus, according to Palestinian sources. IDF spokesman General Ron Kitrey denied the prison had been hit and said instead the attack had targeted a PA laboratory, where arms and explosives were being developed. He also said the Gaza strikes had targeted Force-17 installations and had been “slow and surgical so as not to hurt civilians”. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

13

In further retaliatory measures against the PA, Israeli forces advanced to within 100 metres of Chairman Arafat’s West Bank headquarters in Ramallah. Mr Arafat was banned from leaving the city. Also in Ramallah, Israeli tanks demolished several Force-17 and other PA security force positions and troops seized five of the six entry points into the city. Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles at the Voice of Palestine compound and later bulldozers levelled five buildings belonging to the radio and toppled its radio mast. One Palestinian policeman was killed and another wounded in the Ramallah foray. The IDF split the Gaza Strip into three, blockading roads near the “Gush Katif” settlement block in the southern Gaza Strip and the northern “Netzarim” settlement. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

A statement issued after an emergency meeting of the Israeli security cabinet said Chairman Arafat was “no longer relevant, as far as Israel [was] concerned and there [would] be no more contact with him”. Israeli Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit told a news conference that it was now proven that Mr. Arafat could not be “the partner to this process of peace” and from then on Israel would do whatever it could to defend itself, without counting on the PA to fight terrorism, and there would be no meetings with Palestinian officials. He noted, however, that Israel had “no intention of physically harming Arafat” and did not want to permanently reoccupy areas under Palestinian control. (AFP, Reuters)

In an official statement carried by WAFA, the Palestinian leadership said it considered “the serious decision by the Israeli Government to cut contacts with the [Palestinian] Authority a flagrant attempt to sabotage all the international [peace] efforts”, foremost among them the efforts of General Zinni. The Palestinian leadership blamed Israel for the latest military escalation and said that Chairman Arafat’s administration has taken and continued to take “firm security measures” to prevent attacks by Islamic militants. It called on “all peace-loving parties, namely the United States, Russia, Europe and the United Nations ... to act immediately to prevent Ariel Sharon from pursuing his bloody campaign that will lead the region to a point of no return”. (AFP)

US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, on a trip to Damascus, said the US still considered Chairman Arafat to be the leader of the Palestinian people and would “continue to work with the Palestinian leadership as it must make the very difficult choices involved and move against the extremist groups who threaten the interests of the Palestinian People”. In Brussels, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told Reuters in an interview that for the EU “the chairman of the Palestinian Authority continues to be the representative of the Palestinian people and therefore we will continue dealing with him”. “Fighting against terrorism is now the fundamental responsibility of Arafat. The manner in which the Palestinian Authority works on this matter sometimes is not the most consistent”, Mr. Solana added. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Asked in an interview published in Le Monde about the possibility of sending Chairman Arafat and his aides back to Tunis, where the PLO was based before the 1993 Oslo accords, Israeli Public Security Minister Uzi Landau said it was “a tactical question, a question of political opportunity. We should not exclude this possibility”. He warned the PA had not yet felt the full ire of Israel’s security forces after the recent Palestinian attacks. (AFP, Reuters)

Chairman Arafat had discussed the very dangerous situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory with the Emir of Qatar, the Arab League Secretary-General and the Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Jordan, his adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh said. “They examined the possible diplomatic and political moves that could be taken in the next few hours to confront this dangerous situation”, Mr. Abu Rudeineh added. Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul Ilah El-Khatib had earlier told AFP in Amman that his country, currently holding the Arab League chair, had begun urgent contacts with the international community and Arab countries “to avoid the worst”. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

In a recommendation adopted at its headquarters in Strasbourg, the European Parliament reaffirmed its support for Chairman Arafat and criticized Israel for accusing Mr. Arafat of being directly responsible for terrorist suicide attacks. The Parliament also demanded the European Commission to continue to support the PA and its institutions. Regarding recent incidents, the Parliament said it condemned not only the acts of terrorism by Palestinian organizations but also the “policy of extra-territorial judicial executions and abduction practiced by Israel”. It called on the EU to adopt a common Middle East strategy based on the principle of “the right of the Palestinian people to live in a state of sovereignty, security, democracy and peace”. In Brussels, the European Commission said it would continue to support the PA with monthly cash injections of 10 million euros (about US$9 million) through February 2002, despite Israeli objections. The funds were intended to ensure “a minimum functioning of public administration and basic public services”, said Gunnar Wiegand, spokesman for EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten. He also said that the Palestinian Authority remained, in EU eyes, “an indispensable partner” in the quest for Middle East peace. (AFP, XINHUA)

Israeli soldiers searched and occupied the home of Fatah West Bank leader Marwan Barghouti in Ramallah, Israel Radio reported. Palestinian eyewitnesses said the soldiers installed themselves in the house after putting up sandbags in its windows. Mr. Barghouti was not at home at the time of the IDF action. His wife and children, however, were reported to be still present there. (DPA)

French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine said in Paris that it was a “mistake not to deal with the Palestinian Authority as a partner in peace negotiations, because one cannot do without them if one wants peace”. Speaking for President Chirac later in the day, spokeswoman Catherine Colonna reiterated that Israel needed a partner to make peace and that partner was the PA. She added that President Chirac called on his EU partners “to make the voice of reason heard” and issue a declaration on the Middle East at their 14-15 December summit in Laeken, Belgium. The previous day Mr. Chirac had telephoned President Bush and had told him that “extremists on both sides” must not be allowed to destroy the peace process. (DPA, Reuters)

China urged Israel and Palestine to calmly and properly deal with the current crisis, stop repeated retaliations and resume negotiations, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said in Beijing. The international community should also help curb the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East, Ms. Zhang added. (DPA, XINHUA)

Pope John Paul condemned violence by both Israelis and Palestinians, saying people were being crushed by “two different extremisms” that were disfiguring the face of the Holy Land. The Pope made his comments in an address to an open meeting of Catholic religious leaders from the Middle East, which he had called to express his concern for the region. A statement from the Vatican spokesman later said peace between Israelis and Palestinians could be realized “only if rights and equality about fundamental questions [were] respected”, namely “security for Israel, the birth of a State for the Palestinian people, the evacuation from occupied territories, an internationally guaranteed special statute for the most sacred parts of Jerusalem and a fair solution for Palestinian refugees”. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Israeli tanks and troops had moved into the Area-A Zahra district of Gaza City, just to the south of the “Netzarim” settlement, destroying a security post and occupying three apartment buildings, Palestinian security officials and witnesses told AFP. The troops had set up positions on the rooftops of the buildings and had fortified them with machine-guns and sandbags, the security officials said. They had also raised Israeli flags over each of the buildings, which had been recently constructed to house Palestinian security personnel but had remained empty. (AFP)

A planned meeting between international donors and Palestinians had been scaled back because the surge in violence had prevented the Palestinians from attending, donors and Palestinian officials said. They added that international donors would meet alone, without Palestinian officials, at the World Bank offices on the outskirts of Jerusalem and not at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Israel, as initially planned. (Reuters)

Israeli soldiers shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian youth during clashes in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis, following the funeral of two Palestinian suicide bombers, Palestinian security officials and medical sources said. Later on a Palestinian gunman was shot dead in an exchange of fire near the “Netzarim” settlement in the central Gaza Strip, the IDF said in a statement. (AFP)

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

(UN Press Release SG/SM/8078 of 13 December 2001)

Secretary of State Powell told reporters in Washington that “the stakes [were] too high” for the US to abandon trying to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians to the negotiating table. He also said the US would continue to work with Chairman Arafat, adding that it was “essential to get rid of” Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups, as they were “more likely to destroy the Palestinian cause than to destroy the State of Israel and that is why Mr. Arafat, it seems to me, has the burden upon him to act very aggressively”, Mr. Powell said. (AFP, Data Times)

The spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and other senior leaders of the group were inside a Gaza City mosque, when Israeli missiles hit its compound. Sheikh Yassin escaped unhurt. (AFP)

The Arab Group at the United Nations had decided to ask for an immediate meeting of the Security Council, the Permanent Observer of Palestine Nasser Al-Kidwa told reporters in New York. Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa had also called for an emergency meeting of the Council from Cairo. Later in the day, Tunisia, the Arab member of the UN Security Council, tabled a draft resolution co-sponsored by Egypt in its capacity as current Chairman of the Arab Group, calling for the creation of a “monitoring mechanism to help the parties implement the recommendations of the Report of the Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee (Mitchell Report) and to help create a better situation on the ground, including with regard to the safety of Palestinians civilians”. The US indicated it would likely oppose the adoption of the resolution. (AFP, XINHUA)

15 Palestinian houses were levelled when the IDF raided the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip late in the day, according to witnesses. Palestinian security sources also reported that 12 men had been arrested in Dura, southwest of Hebron, and in the nearby neighbourhood of Wadi Abu Remman. In Assiya al-Shamaliya, north of Nablus, the IDF said it had arrested “13 suspected terrorists” in an operation involving 100 men and 20 tanks. A 19-year-old Palestinian had been shot dead by soldiers after he had allegedly opened fire on a military convoy in the central Gaza Strip, medical officials said. (AFP, XINHUA)

14

The IDF launched pre-dawn raids into several West Bank towns killing six Palestinians and arresting as many as 40. Chairman Arafat’s Advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh denounced the killings as a “massacre” and warned of a “catastrophe” unless Israel halted its military escalation. The IDF said five armed Palestinians had been killed and four wounded in an exchange of fire in the Palestinian-controlled town of Salfit, accusing gunmen of opening fire during an operation involving infantry, tanks, border police and special forces. It also said it had raided homes in Salfit and other parts of the West Bank, arresting 40 “suspected terrorists”, including a wanted member of Hamas, and seizing some weapons. Three houses had been demolished, including one belonging to the local head of Fatah. (AFP)

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, whose country was holding the EU presidency, told a news conference on the first day of the EU summit in Brussels that “weakening Arafat [could] not help the peace process”. He added that “the democratically elected President Arafat and the Palestinian authorities [were] the sole interlocutors for Israel in this conflict”. (Reuters)

The IDF said it was easing a blockade on the Gaza Strip only to allow Muslims to prepare for the Eid Al-Fitr feast, marking the end of Ramadan. (AFP)

The UN Security Council held a formal meeting on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. Following statements by 24 UN Member States, Palestine and the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Council proceeded to vote on the draft resolution tabled the previous day by Tunisia and co-sponsored by Egypt, in its capacity as the current Chairman of the Arab Group. Draft resolution S/2001/1199 received 12 votes in favour, one against (USA), 2 abstentions (Norway, UK), and was not adopted, owing to the negative vote of a permanent member of the Security Council. (Journal of the United Nations, 15 December 2001 (No. 2001/244))

15

US special Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni would return to Washington for consultations, in order to “provide an assessment to the President and Secretary Powell of the situation in light of recent events and how best to proceed. General Zinni [would] remain engaged and return to the region”, the State Department said in a statement. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Four Palestinians, including a 12-year-old boy, two teenagers and a policeman, were killed and at least 70 were injured in clashes following an IDF incursion into the Area A village of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. Several tanks, backed up by armoured personnel carriers, entered the village before dawn to arrest suspected extremists. Fifteen suspected Hamas members were detained during the operation, which the IDF said was met with “relatively strong resistance” from the population. The IDF bulldozers demolished nine buildings belonging to the PA and to militant organizations, including the home of the leader of the military wing of Hamas, Salah Shihada, who remained in hiding. The troops withdrew from the village some 16-hours later, Israel Radio reported. Separately, another Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the southern Gaza Strip, allegedly, as he was trying to infiltrate a settlement in the “Gush Katif” settlement block. One more Palestinian was killed by an explosive charge he detonated on the “Green Line” separating Israel from the West Bank near Tulkarm, Israeli police said. The police added they thought he was preparing a suicide attack on Tel Aviv. (AFP, DPA)

16

The EU Summit in Laeken, Belgium, ended with agreement on the following main points regarding the Middle East: Israel needed a partner to negotiate with, both in order to eradicate terrorism and to work towards peace, and that partner was the PA and its elected President, Yasser Arafat, whose capacity to combat terrorism should not be weakened. The EU again asked the PA to dismantle the terrorist networks of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Israeli Government to withdraw its military forces and to stop extrajudicial executions. (AFP)

Following orders issued by Chairman Arafat, the PA had closed 33 premises of the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the course of the previous two days, Palestinian police said. In each case, the premises had been padlocked and the police had painted inscriptions forbidding their reopening. (AFP)

Two Israeli helicopter gunships launched missile attacks on a Palestinian police station and another security building in the Jabalia refugee camp, north of Gaza City. The two-storey police station nearly collapsed and the nearby building, used by the personnel of the PA Head of Preventive Security in the Gaza Strip Mohammed Dahlan, was hit head-on by the missiles. There were no reports of injuries. (AFP, DPA)

MENA reported that Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa had “expressed his strong astonishment and concern that the US used its right of veto during the vote on the draft resolution presented by Egypt and Tunisia to the Security Council”. “The resolution, to which no one objected but the United States, was characterized by balance and objectivity, as it called for immediately stopping all acts of violence and destruction”, Mr. Moussa was quoted as saying. The US veto had previously been strongly condemned by Arab States and media. (AFP, DPA)

In a televised address marking the end of Ramadan, Chairman Arafat called “once again for a halt to all operations, particularly suicide attacks which we have always condemned”. He said such attacks served as a pretext for Prime Minister Sharon to further his aim of “an escalation of his war on our villages and towns, occupying our land, carrying out assassinations”. Mr. Arafat added that all those involved in suicide operations would be held accountable and stressed he would come down hard on those who refused to respect his ceasefire declaration with Israel, even if, as he said, Mr. Sharon did not abide by truce agreements. Mr. Arafat also said the only way forward was for a return to talks and called on the Israeli Prime Minister and the Israeli people to resume peace talks “immediately”. Responding to Chairman Arafat’s address, Israeli Government spokesman Raanan Gissin said words were not enough and there had to be deeds. (AFP, EFE, Reuters, XINHUA)

17

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Chairman Arafat’s speech the previous day had been “constructive”, but it was important that he now took concrete action. Separately, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Washington still believed in its Middle East vision of a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestine but emphasized it would only work if Chairman Arafat took action to end the violence. (AFP, EFE, Reuters, XINHUA)

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen said in a statement that Chairman Arafat’s address the previous day was “a historic speech that marked a potential turning point in the search for an end to violence”. He also said that the address “was given in parallel with significant Palestinian steps on the ground” and noted that it was vital that the PA “continued and deepened its efforts to control violence emanating from its territory”. Mr. Rød-Larsen also said he had met late on 16 December with Foreign Minister Peres and told him it was critical that Israel recognize that a potential opportunity had been opened by Chairman Arafat’s speech. (AFP)

Responding to Chairman Arafat’s address, the Belgian EU presidency said that it constituted “an important step along the way to bringing about an effective ceasefire, provided that the Palestinian Authority continue[d] to take specific measures to combat terrorism”. The presidency statement also urged Israel immediately to end its military operations and begin withdrawing its troops from areas under Palestinian control. It urged both sides to resume cooperation in security matters. EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana issued a separate statement saying that Mr. Arafat’s speech had provided “a window of opportunity” for the two sides to act. (DPA, Reuters)

Israeli police briefly detained Sari Nusseibeh, the top PLO official in East Jerusalem, to prevent him from holding a hotel reception for diplomats. Dr. Nusseibeh’s detention prompted criticism from the US State Department, which branded it “provocative and counter-productive”. Spokesman Richard Boucher said the US had lodged a complaint with Prime Minister Sharon’s office and noted that “Israel need[ed] to focus on the repercussions of the actions it takes”. An Israeli police spokesman said Dr. Nusseibeh and four other Palestinians had been released about an hour after they had been detained for questioning about the alleged violation of a police order not to hold a hotel reception for foreign consuls and local dignitaries under PLO auspices. Israeli Public Security Minister Uzi Landau said that, although Dr. Nusseibeh was regarded as holding moderate political views, any PLO activity could be considered “terror-related”. The reception in question, which had been planned as a celebration of the Muslim feast of Eid Al-Fitr, would have contributed to a loss of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, Minister Landau said. Israeli opposition leader Yossi Sarid called the detention “the height of stupidity”. Dr. Nusseibeh himself told reporters that his brief detention had been “an attempt by the Israeli right-wing Government to silence the voices of peace”. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli troops killed a Palestinian naval policeman in Nablus, a Hamas member whom the IDF said it had tried to arrest in Hebron, and a 12-year-old boy in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian gunmen later wounded four Jewish settlers in three ambushes in the West Bank. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

President Bush signed a waiver postponing for six months any relocation of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but said he remained committed to such a move in the future. (Reuters)

18

In pamphlets distributed in the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said their opposition to Israel would continue as long as the latter maintained its military occupation. “The movement does not consider itself obligated by the ceasefire announced by Arafat”, a Hamas pamphlet read. The pamphlets also accused Chairman Arafat of bending to meet the demands by the US and Israel that would only cause a rift among the Palestinians themselves. The groups urged their members to continue the armed struggle until all Palestinian territories occupied by Israel were liberated. (EFE)

IDF Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant-General Shaul Mofaz told a conference on national security in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, that the “hard-hitting and painful succession of attacks [had] brought to a high point the delegitimization of [Chairman] Arafat and the legitimacy of Israeli retaliation, allowing [Israel] a greater range of action today”. He said Israeli forces had captured hundreds of militants in sweeps in areas under Palestinian control, including several would-be suicide attackers preparing to take action. Israel would continue such raids as it saw fit but had “no desire to conquer or reoccupy Palestinian towns”, he noted. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli Tourism Minister Benjamin Elon told Israel Army Radio that “If [the Palestinians] do not stop the war that they initiated, they must understand that there is no such thing as a luxury war, and that when they lose the war, they will be expelled from here”. He noted that it was up to the Palestinians to decide whether they wanted to live with Israel in peace. He also said he was taking an active part in the “Judaization” of houses in East Jerusalem, from where Palestinians were encouraged to leave by being offered financial aid to move to the US. He added that several had accepted and their houses had been bought by Jews. Prime Minister Sharon’s office declined to comment on Minister Elon’s remarks. (DPA)

According to official Israeli figures, in the first nine months of 2001 the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip rose to 204,900 – an increase of 4.4 per cent compared with the same period of the previous year. The figures did not include Israelis living in parts of Jerusalem occupied by Israel since 1967. The Central Bureau of Statistics data showed the arrival of new settlers and births among settlers had led to this growth, which nevertheless was the slowest for a decade. The settler population had grown by 7.8 per cent in 2000 and averaged eight percent annual growth in each of the previous five years. A spokesman for the Yesha settler council said the organization’s data showed a similar decline in the population growth rate but put the overall number of settlers at 227,000. (Reuters)

The Damascus-based Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine denounced Chairman Arafat’s call to end armed attacks on Israelis, warning it would divide Palestinians. (Reuters)

A survey carried out by the East Jerusalem-based Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre (JMCC) from 6 to 9 December showed that 71.9 per cent of Palestinians believed arresting activists involved in the intifada was unjustifiable, with 80 per cent wanting to see the uprising go on. A 57-per-cent majority also were not in favour of the ceasefire called for by Chairman Arafat. The survey revealed that 64 per cent of Palestinians still supported suicide attacks. 48.8 per cent said the aim of the intifada was to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and establish a Palestinian State there, while 39 per cent thought the goal was to “liberate all of historic Palestine”. (AFP)

The heads of the Christian churches in Jerusalem, in their Christmas message, called on both parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to “stop the violence in the Holy Land”. “…[L]et us start a new era of justice and peace that sees both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, within recognized borders, enjoying safety and tranquility”, the message said, also launching an appeal to the international community “to have enough courage to take the right decisions and implement them and so help our peoples to work on their fulfilment”. (AFP)

The PA closed six Hamas offices in Gaza. The offices were centres for youth, political and social activities. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, Reuters)

Secretary Powell held separate telephone conversations with both Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Mr. Powell had said Mr. Arafat needed to “take permanent decisive steps to end the violence”, acknowledging some “positive actions from the Palestinian side” but urging that they be “made effective”. Mr. Powell had told Mr. Sharon that “Israel need[ed] to be prepared to do its part to create an environment in which Palestinians [could] sustain and expand their efforts,” Mr. Boucher said, adding that it was “important that Israelis work[ed] to alleviate the pressures on the Palestinian people, especially restrictions that impose[d] real hardships .” Mr. Powell had also said “direct Israeli-Palestinian contacts, particularly on security issues, [were] important to end the violence.” (AFP)

Canada and the EU, following a semi-annual Canada-EU summit in Ottawa, signed a declaration, in which they expressed deep concern over the situation in the Middle East. Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium, the current holder of the EU Presidency, at a news conference said “Both sides have to sit down at the table and work from a plan which spells out very clearly the future requirements for the security of Israel and an independent Palestinian State,” adding that “the goal of the EU is to ask the entire international community, [including] the US, Canada, Russia and the EU, to push the two sides to accept an international initiative.” (Reuters)

19

The PA arrested 15 Palestinian security officers in the southern Gaza Strip for refusing to respect a ceasefire with Israel. (AFP)

Fatah announced it would halt all military attacks on Israel, in accordance with a request by Chairman Arafat. “[The] Fatah movement reaffirms its full and complete commitment to all President Arafat said in his speech Sunday [16 December], including the call for a ceasefire,” said a leaflet distributed in Gaza, adding that “When we commit ourselves to the ceasefire, it does not mean that we are surrendering or giving up”. (AFP, Comtex Scientific Corporation, DPA)

A high-level meeting of Israeli and Palestinian security officials under US mediation late in the day “was not fruitful”, PA West Bank security chief Jibril Rajoub told Voice of Palestine radio. He said the Palestinian side asked the Israeli side to withdraw from areas under Palestinian control but the latter replied they would only withdraw from one town at a time and only after complete quiet in that town. “We rejected this idea”, Mr. Rajoub added. The Israelis reportedly were non-committal to additional Palestinian requests to end assassinations of militants and to cease the blockade around Palestinian towns. Israeli officials described the talks as promising. (AFP, Reuters)

After a meeting in Washington with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, whose country held the rotating EU presidency, and EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, Secretary of State Powell said he was “very pleased that the positions of the European Union and the United States [on the Middle East conflict were] so closely aligned”. Mr. Powell added that the US had not given up hope of finding peace, as there were “some optimistic elements in the equation”, specifically mentioning the talks under way between security officials of the two sides. Mr. Verhofstadt confirmed that there was a common US-EU position and underlined “the absolute necessity that we continue to pressure both parties, but certainly Chairman Arafat, to go on implementing everything he has said in his speech”. Mr. Powell echoed this and added that the US and the EU wanted Israel to respond to Chairman Arafat’s moves by easing the blockade on the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He also said the US and the EU were united in encouraging others to do all they could to ease the plight of the Palestinian people, who were “existing in very, very difficult circumstances”. Mr. Powell said he and the European delegation, which also included the EU Middle East envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos, had discussed the possibility of sending monitors to oversee any ceasefire, and reiterated a previous US position that, if both sides agreed that the presence of monitors at some point would be useful, the US would be willing to play a part. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

20

In what the IDF called a “tactical re-arrangement”, its tanks moved back from some areas of Nablus and Ramallah but remained about 300 metres from Chairman Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah. However, it was later reported that the IDF had moved back into some of the areas it had vacated hours earlier. In Nablus, this resulted in an exchange of fire, during which a Palestinian was killed, Palestinian officials said. Israeli troops carried out raids in other Palestinian-controlled areas to arrest seven militants, one in Hebron and six in the village of Karawat Bani Zeid near Nablus. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Shooting broke out in Gaza when PA police attempted to arrest Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Al-Rantissi. Police withdrew without detaining him after dozens of Hamas members surrounded his home and calls to arms to defend him were broadcast over mosque loudspeakers; up to seven people, including two policemen, were injured. (AFP, Reuters)

About 5,000 Palestinians marched in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip in support of Chairman Arafat and his 16 December call for an end to armed attacks on Israelis. (Reuters)

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen told a press conference in Ramallah that, in the first 12 months of the intifada, Israeli forces had imposed closures on the West Bank for 240 days and Gaza for 342 days. These closures had had “a devastating effect on the Palestinian economy” and had caused “collective pain”. In addition to losses of between US$2.4 and US$3.2 billion, the closures had more than doubled Palestinian core unemployment from 11 per cent to at least 25 per cent across the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Gaza Strip had been worst hit, with adjusted unemployment rates running at 50 per cent. Mr. Rød-Larsen said World Bank estimates predicted the number of Palestinians officially living in poverty by the end of the year would reach 46 per cent, almost twice as many as before the start of the violence. He noted that the PA, Israel and the world community had a duty to stop the economic deterioration in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The PA, he said, “must broaden and deepen efforts to control violence. It should exert 100 per cent effort”. Israel must ensure greater restraint by its army, halt extrajudicial killings of Palestinian militants, and lift the closure, a sine-qua-non if international aid organizations were to be able to do their work in helping the people. The international community must fully support the parties to stabilize the situation and move to rebuild the shattered economy, Mr. Rød-Larsen added, stressing that economic improvement could not be sustained in the absence of political progress. (AFP, DPA)

The IDF said in a statement that 5,800 Palestinians were permitted to work in Israel, adding that there were no restrictions on the number of women over the age of 25, who were also allowed in to work. According to the statement, some additional 6,000 Palestinians were employed in industrial zones set up around Jewish settlements, while another 4,500 worked in the Erez industrial zone on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, IDF said it was considering allowing Palestinian workers to spend the night in Israel, rather than having to cross repeatedly numerous checkpoints in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AFP)

The Swedish Government said it would grant extra aid worth 60 million kronor (about US$5.67 million) to the Palestinians the following year, to be used by the PA and the Palestinian business sector. This amount would be in addition to 140 million kronor already earmarked for the Palestinians for 2002. The decision was taken as a result of “the Palestinians’ strained financial situation and the general economic crisis affecting the Palestinian people as a result of the Israeli occupation policy”, the Swedish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. (AFP)

A statement issued by the Japanese embassy in Jordan said the Government of Japan and UNRWA had signed an agreement, under which Japan would contribute 600 million yen (around US$4.9 million) for UNRWA’s food assistance benefiting Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The funds would be used to buy wheat flour, which would be distributed to so-called “hardship cases”, as well as bolster UNRWA’s nutritional programme for nursing mothers and pregnant women. (AFP)

An IDF spokesman said a report presented to the Chief of General Staff Lieutenant-General Shaul Mofaz, following an investigation, concluded that Israeli soldiers had been at fault over the deaths of five Palestinian boys killed by an Israeli bomb in the Gaza Strip on 22 November. He said the incident was “due to the combination of professional mistakes, mistaken decisions and lack of attention” and Lieutenant-General Mofaz had accepted the recommendation to “professionally reprimand a number of officers”. (DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

The General Assembly, at its resumed tenth emergency special session, adopted two resolutions on illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory: ES-10/8 by 124 votes to 6, with 25 abstentions, and ES-10/9 by 133 votes to 4, with 16 abstentions. (UN Press Release GA/10003 of 20 December 2001)

21

Israel’s Foreign Ministry denounced the latest UN General Assembly resolutions, especially the one calling for international observers to be sent to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, saying they were “one-sided, hostile and unhelpful”, diverting attention away from the “war against terrorism and pressuring Arafat.” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the resolutions indicated the “isolation of the United States and Israel” in the Middle East. (AFP, Arutz 7)

Spokesmen for the political wing of Hamas announced that it had asked its members, especially its military wing, to cease attacks against Israel until further notice, in order to “protect our Palestinian national union and to guard our way of struggle until we get our independence, although we know the Israeli occupation and its aggression policy will continue”. The Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shalah vowed, in a speech in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, that the movement would “continue its resistance” against Israeli occupation but would not confront the PA. Abu Imad Al-Rifai, Jihad’s representative in Lebanon, said that the movement was not willing to compromise. (AFP, AP, Arutz 7, CNN, Reuters)

Some 200 prominent South African Jews, among them a Cabinet Minister, a Nobel laureate, journalists and former anti-apartheid activists, signed a “declaration of consciousness” condemning Israel’s occupation policies and calling for peace in the Middle East, the establishment of a Palestinian State, and for Israel’s withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The declaration sparked controversy and reawakened a debate amongst the Jewish community in South Africa dating back to the days of apartheid. (AFP)

Israel Radio reported that Israel would not allow Chairman Arafat to attend a Christmas mass in Bethlehem, unless militants responsible for the assassination of minister Rechavam Ze’evy were arrested. There was no official Israeli statement on the matter and no official request from the PA. France advised Israel against such a move, while Israel Army Radio quoted sources close to Foreign Minister Peres as calling such a decision “stupid”. (AFP, Arutz 7, DPA)

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said that, while Chairman Arafat had taken “some positive steps” to halt terrorism in the Middle East, still more was required of him. (AFP)

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said that Israel was continuing political contacts with the Palestinians despite announcing the previous week that it would no longer do business with Chairman Arafat. However, he did not specify at what level these contacts were taking place. (AFP)

An Arab League Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Cairo, in its final communiqué, affirmed its support “for the position of the PA, that is looking to achieve a political solution based on the creation of an independent Palestinian State, sovereign and with its capital Jerusalem”, without mentioning the intifada. Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa said: “We speak today from a new stage, that of orientation towards political talks.” Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Shara criticized the final communiqué, saying it was “not sufficient” and did not “reflect the feelings prevalent in the Arab street”, SANA news agency reported. (AFP)

22

The Israeli Government announced its decision to block Chairman Arafat’s annual pilgrimage to Bethlehem, with IDF checkpoints and roadblocks between Ramallah and Jerusalem reinforced for this purpose, including with senior and Arabic-speaking officers. Chairman Arafat said he would still attend the Christmas service, “even if I have to go there on foot.” (AFP, Reuters)

23

Around 150 people from France, Belgium, Switzerland, the US, Norway and Italy joined some 600 Palestinians for a march of solidarity in the north of Ramallah, as part of a month-long series of actions organized by Palestinian and international NGOs. The aim of the campaign was for individuals and groups to exert pressure on their Governments to provide protection for the Palestinian people after the US veto in the UN Security Council. Israeli troops tried to disperse the demonstration using rubber bullets and teargas, slightly injuring three people. (AFP)

Yediot Aharonot wrote of a documented understanding that Foreign Minister Peres had reached with Palestinian Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala). Mr. Peres denied there was an agreement and Prime Minister Sharon’s office released a statement saying that, despite earlier pronouncements, these talks were held with his knowledge and could continue. Mr. Peres, along with Foreign Ministry Director-General Avi Gil and former MK and Foreign Ministry Director-General Uri Savir, had worked for months with Mr. Qurei, trying to formulate an agreed-upon formula with a “political horizon” for the Palestinians, a permanent agreement that would be implemented in stages. Two weeks earlier, they had all met in Rome for several hours, during which they had worked on the text. Under the peace plan: a US-sponsored total ceasefire would take place in the six weeks following the signing of an accord; Palestinian police would collect all illegal weapons, while Israel would ease the blockade on Palestinian towns and cities; eight weeks after signing Israel would recognize an independent Palestinian State that would initially exist on all the land under full or partial PA control; after their mutual recognition, Israel and the new Palestinian State would undertake negotiations, which should tackle, within nine to 12 months, the issues of borders, security, water, Palestinian refugees and economic and regional cooperation; the accords reached would be put into effect within 18 to 24 months. (AFP, Arutz 7, DPA, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

An Israeli Public Security Ministry spokesman announced that Sari Nusseibeh’s Christmas reception for foreign diplomats in Jerusalem would be allowed to ago ahead. A similar reception for Eid Al-Fitr a few days earlier had been blocked and Mr. Nusseibeh had been briefly detained by the police. (The New York Times, Reuters)

Belgium, which held the EU presidency, called on Israel to reverse its decision to block Chairman Arafat’s annual pilgrimage to Bethlehem, as did the Russian special envoy Andrei Vdovin and the French and Greek Foreign Ministries. Gush Shalom petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice to overrule the decision. Vatican spokesman Joaquim Navarro-Valls said a diplomatic demarche had been made “to prevent this ban imposed arbitrarily”. Israeli President Moshe Katsav and Labour Ministers Peres and Ben-Eliezer, as well as a number of MKs, also called for reversal of this decision. Deputy Minister of Public Security Gideon Ezra (Likud), also criticized the position of the Cabinet in this regard. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah made a stop at Chairman Arafat’s office on his way to Bethlehem, with IDF stopping and searching his vehicle afterwards. The UN, the EU and the US were all involved in efforts to persuade Israel to change its mind. (AFP, Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, The New York Times, Reuters)

24

The Israeli Bar Association’s advisory Committee for the Rule of Law and Human Rights said “the elimination policy” was “illegal and contrary to the rules of war and international law, which define assassination as a serious war crime”. It called on Israeli soldiers to disobey orders to hunt down and kill Palestinians – except in a last resort to save lives. (Reuters)

The Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank said it had signed loan and grant agreements worth about US$24 million with the PA to finance medical, industrial and other projects. (AFP, Reuters)

The Greek Foreign Ministry announced that it had signed a bilateral agreement with the PA worth €1.5 million (about US$1.345 million) to be spent on a medical centre in Ramallah that would help deal with a form of anemia, an acute problem in the area. (XINHUA)

A Palestinian man was killed in an exchange of fire near the “Enav” settlement, between Tulkarm and Nablus, and a 12-year-old Palestinian girl was moderately injured during an exchange of fire near Khan Yunis. (AFP, Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

The DFLP’s military wing, known as Al-Katayb (The Wing), claimed an overnight bomb explosion on the edge of the “Netzarim” settlement that damaged an IDF jeep. Several houses were damaged in the Khan Yunis refugee camp when IDF fired eight tank shells into the residential area, Palestinian security sources said. (AFP)

IDF troops, supported by tanks and helicopter gunships, arrested three Hamas and three Islamic Jihad members in a raid on the village of Tammun, in Area A northeast of Nablus. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, Reuters)

25

Jerusalem Municipality declared in a statement a new policy against what it described as illegal buildings in East Jerusalem, threatening to demolish more houses that their construction was unlicensed under Israeli law and to take legal action against those who did not comply with the demolition decisions. Municipality spokesman Hagay Elias described it as the “new policy of the Municipality to implement the building laws in all parts of the city”. (The Jerusalem Times)

26

One Palestinian was killed and two others injured in an exchange of fire between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen in the Jenin district near the “Ganim” and “Qadim” settlements, with IDF using tanks and helicopter gunships. Three Palestinians were injured in overnight clashes with the IDF near Rafah. (AFP, Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

The Israeli General Security Service disclosed that it had arrested members of three PFLP cells that had carried out shooting attacks in the West Bank, Israeli sources said. The arrests were made in the Area B villages of Biddya, Haris and Odala, between Nablus and Qalqilya. (Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

IDF Southern Commander Maj.-Gen. Doron Almog met with PA Gaza Security Chief Abdel Razeq Al-Majeida and agreed to repair the Gaza International Airport, which had been damaged by Israeli troops, ease restrictions on Gaza workers and merchants entering Israel, reopen the Rafah border crossing point and extend its closing time from 15:00 to 20:00 hrs. (Arutz 7, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

The Israeli Deputy Interior Minister David Azoulai confirmed reports that regulations no longer required Israeli settlers to turn in their weapons if a complain was filed against them by Palestinians and while an investigation was going on. (Arutz 7)

PA sources reported that about 300 IDF soldiers had entered the Area B village of Azzun, east of Qalqilya, and had arrested 18 Palestinians, including members of the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and five members of the PA’s General Intelligence Service. (Arutz 7, DPA, Reuters)

Israeli soldiers fired shots in the air and used tear gas and percussion grenades to prevent foreign activists belonging to the “international popular committee to protect the Palestinian people” from entering the Gaza Strip to carry out a solidarity mission with Palestinians, organizers and witnesses said. Two French activists were detained and at least three other members of the group were punched in the face by Israeli soldiers during the incident at the Erez Crossing. (DPA, Reuters)

A poll conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research among 1,357 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the week ending on 24 December showed, with a 3 per cent margin of error, that the majority of Palestinians believed armed conflict had helped them achieve national aims and that bomb attacks against Israeli civilians were not terrorism; they also regarded Israeli settlers and soldiers as legitimate targets in the fight against the Israeli occupation. About 76 per cent rejected the PA crackdown on militant groups. Only 21 per cent said they expected the armed attacks would stop and negotiations would resume soon. However, 60 per cent supported a ceasefire and 71 per cent an immediate return to talks. Seventy-three per cent said they were in favour of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation after a peace agreement, based on the establishment of a Palestinian State recognized by Israel. (DPA, Reuters)

European Parliament President Nicole Fontaine and Russian Middle East envoy Andrei Vdovin strongly criticized Israel for its ban on Chairman Arafat travelling to Bethlehem. (AFP, DPA)

27

Israeli Government spokesman Arie Mekel announced that the ban on Chairman Arafat travelling to Bethlehem was still in effect for Orthodox Christmas Eve services on 6 January. (AFP, Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, Reuters)

Some 200 foreign activists demonstrating alongside 800 Palestinians for an end to Israel’s occupation marched peacefully from the centre of Ramallah to an Israeli army position near Chairman Arafat’s HQ, where the troops fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at them. Demonstrators had thrown no stones at the Israeli soldiers and crowd marshals had been deployed to prevent youths from doing that. (AFP)

IDF units backed by tanks, armoured vehicles and a helicopter entered a Palestinian-controlled area in the northwestern section of Hebron in the early hours of the morning and captured eight Palestinians. The IDF said they were Hamas members, while the Palestinians said the detainees were students. (AFP, Arutz 7, BBC, DPA, EFE, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, Reuters)

Another Israeli-Palestinian security meeting took place at the Erez (Beit Hanoun) checkpoint to discuss the implementation of measures agreed the previous day. (BBC, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

Speaking at the Likud Party HQ in Tel Aviv Prime Minister Sharon said a peace plan negotiated between Foreign Minister Peres and Palestinian Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) had “many problems”, that he would not agree to a Palestinian State before the Cabinet deliberated the issue and that any eventual agreement would carry no weight until approved by the Cabinet. Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer said he supported the continuation of the Peres-Abu Ala talks. (AFP, Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, XINHUA)

A PA delegation headed by Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) and Yasser Abed Rabbo met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher in Cairo. Speaking to journalists afterwards, Mr. Qurei said: “There are contacts, meetings and discussions [with Israelis], but we have not reached any agreement.” An Arabic version of the draft agreement, obtained by AFP, said that “Israel must recognize within eight weeks [of signing an accord] a Palestinian State in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and Palestinians must recognize the State of Israel on the basis of the same resolutions.” The text published in Yediot Aharanot on 23 December referred instead to a Palestinian State on land under full or partial Palestinian control. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, XINHUA)

PA Planning and International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath, responding to earlier comments by Prime Minister Sharon, told a news conference in Gaza that political contacts between Israel and the Palestinians had never ceased and would continue in the future, and aimed at achieving political progress and not only to solve security issues. Mr. Shaath noted that there were four major issues for the negotiations: 1) implementation of the Mitchell Report and Tenet Plan; 2) the declaration of an independent Palestinian State and the mutual recognition; 3) resumption of the final status talks on the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees’ right of return two weeks after the six weeks of implementing the Mitchell Report and the Tenet Plan; and 4) the Palestinian-Israeli talks should be held under the auspices of the Arab and the international communities. (DPA, XINHUA)

Chairman Arafat met in Ramallah with the foreign representatives to the PA. His advisor, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said Mr. Arafat had “explained the developments considering the current situation especially the President’s latest speech”, and had sent through them an urgent letter to their countries asking for immediate action to end the current dangerous situation. (WAFA)

Hamas condemned in a statement the resumption of political contacts and of security meetings between the PA and Israel and called for an escalation of the intifada. (AFP)

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer instructed the IDF to remove the encirclement of Bethlehem to ease access to religious sites for Christian pilgrims. Following lifting of the Bethlehem blockade, the IDF would consider easing restrictions in additional PA towns, Israeli Army Radio said. Palestinian witnesses in Bethlehem said the cordon had only partly been removed. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, IDF, The Jerusalem Post-Internet Edition, Reuters)

28

The IDF tightened the blockade of Jenin and blocked a road to Tulkarm with tanks. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

Israeli soldiers had opened fire and seriously injured a Palestinian woman in Rafah, medical sources said. There had been no clashes or shooting beforehand, witnesses added. (AFP, WAFA)

An armed Palestinian, from the Jabalia refugee camp and member of the Islamic Jihad, was killed overnight in the Gaza Strip not far from the “Netzarim” settlement by an IDF patrol. (AFP, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

Abu Mahmud, the head of the Abu Rish faction, formerly known as the Fatah Hawks and based in the southern Gaza Strip, said that the group would respect the ceasefire ordered by Chairman Arafat. (AFP)

Around 2,000 Israelis and Palestinians marched in Jerusalem calling for a Palestinian State and an end of occupation in a demonstration organized by the Women’s Coalition for Peace and pacifist groups. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

The Israeli-Palestinian Coalition for Peace, comprising prominent Israeli and Palestinian politicians and activists who endorse a two-State solution based on the 1967 borders “with their respective capitals in Jerusalem”, inaugurated a Center for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue at the New Imperial Hotel in East Jerusalem and signed a joint peace declaration. Among the group’s members were former Labour Minister Yossi Beilin, Labour MK Yael Dayan, and Meretz MKs Yossi Sarid and Naomi Chazan, on the Israeli side; and on the Palestinian side, PLO representative in Jerusalem Sari Nusseibeh, Palestinian spokeswoman and League of Arab States’ media delegate Hanan Ashrawi, PA legislator and Fatah leader Hatem Abdel Khader, and the son of the late Faisal Husseini, Abdel Hader Al-Husseini. (DPA, The Jerusalem Post-Internet Edition)

The US State Department had reportedly requested explanations from the Israeli Foreign Ministry on 14 issues due to be included in its annual report on human rights that would be issued in February 2002, among them: assassinations of Palestinians, administrative detentions, and various incidents involving IDF troops in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

The EU introduced a package of anti-terrorism measures including a freeze of assets of the Islamic Jihad and of Izz al-Din al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

Israeli President Moshe Katsav confirmed he had received a proposal to address the Palestinian Council in Ramallah to urge, on behalf of the people of Israel, for a "hudna", an Arabic term describing a ceasefire, as a prelude to renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks, Israel Radio reported, but he had yet to hear from Prime Minister Sharon. The proposal had been put forward by former MK Abdel Wahab Darawshe, Professor Yosef Ginat from Haifa University and businessman Eyal Ehrlich. According to Mr. Darawshe, he had already presented his idea to Chairman Arafat and had received his approval. The President’s office confirmed that Mr. Katsav had met Mr. Darawshe. (AFP, Arutz 7, DPA, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

29

Some 1,000 Western and Palestinian demonstrators gathered at a university in Nablus and marched to an Israeli military checkpoint calling for Israel to leave the Occupied Palestinian Territory. They left the checkpoint area after armoured vehicles had fired warning shots. About a hundred mainly Western activists were also dispersed with tear gas after they marched on an Israeli roadblock at the entrance to Ramallah and raised a Palestinian flag at an abandoned army position and dismantled old equipment. Meanwhile, a convoy under the auspices of the Coexistence Movement and comprising some 300 Israelis and Arab Israelis brought food to villagers in the Beit Ummar neighbourhood, south of Bethlehem, with the authorization of the Israeli army, which had previously barred such actions. (AFP)

30

Six armed Palestinians were killed by the IDF in the north of the Gaza Strip in two separate incidents, DFLP leader Khalil Abu-Zarfi among them. The PA accused Israel of “fanning flames of violence” and thousands of Palestinians attended the funerals of the dead men. (AFP, Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, The Jerusalem Post-Internet Edition)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher sent a message to the Bush Administration calling for Gen. Zinni to return to the region. Palestinian leaders had also been trying to persuade Washington to take advantage of a lull in the fighting and renew its mediation efforts in the Middle East. (AFP, Arutz 7)

Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer reported that the number of Palestinian attacks had dropped dramatically, to less than ten a day on average, and that if the trend continued the implementation of the Mitchell Report and the Tenet Plan might begin. However, he later said that a countdown of seven days of absolute quiet in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had not begun because Palestinian attacks continued, Israel Radio reported. (Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

The IDF had declared a road leading south from Jerusalem and going through PA areas a closed military zone and had stopped some 300 foreign peace activists from entering Hebron and demonstrating their solidarity with the Palestinian people, organizers said. (AFP)

31

Voice of Palestine reported IDF shutting down a school near Tulkarm and declaring the area a closed military zone. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported that 465 Palestinians had been killed in 2001, bringing the total of Palestinians killed in the intifada to 743. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, The Jerusalem Post-Internet Edition)

Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Peres met to discuss Israel’s contacts with the PA, in talks that were to centre on ceasefire negotiations and the peace plan Mr. Peres had been discussing with Palestinian Council Speaker Abu Ala. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa told the Al-Hayat newspaper that the Palestine problem was waning in importance with international terrorism topping the world agenda. (Arutz 7, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

Speaking on Israeli Radio, Foreign Minister Peres said that in the world climate following the 11 September attacks, “the Palestinians no longer have any option to return to terrorism, because they are more dependent on the world than perhaps any other body. Both for financial aid and for political aid.” He also said that “We have decided that we are conducting negotiations toward a ceasefire, talks which I call ‘rich negotiations’, because ceasefire talks certainly have a diplomatic element, and not only a military element”. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

A Gulf Cooperation Council communiqué at the close of its annual end-of-year summit in Muscat said “the deterioration of the situation and the current wave of violence are a result of Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and its failure to adhere to the terms of reference of the peace process”. (AFP, DPA)

Some 250 Christian clergymen, joined by Palestinian, Israeli and foreign peace activists, among them PLO representative in Jerusalem Sari Nusseibeh, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah and representatives of the Israeli Peace Now and Gush Shalom movements, marched from Bethlehem to Jerusalem in a gesture of peace. The group cancelled plans to create a human wall around the Old City of Jerusalem, after thousands had been held up at the “Gilo” settlement checkpoint, participants said. (DPA)

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