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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
30 October 2002




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



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

March 2002


1

The IDF continued its operations in the refugee camps of Jenin and Balata, killing two Palestinian teenagers in fire-fights in the Jenin camp. Later two brothers, aged 25 and 18, and a 33-year-old man were also shot dead. According to Palestinian security sources, an eight-year-old girl had been killed when helicopters opened fire on the Jenin camp. Dozens of Palestinians were reported injured. The IDF justified the raid saying the camp was a “safe haven ... for terrorist organizations.” Palestinian officials said the raids were intended to sabotage the recent Saudi peace initiative. Brig.-Gen. Gershon Yitzhak, the IDF commander in the West Bank, told reporters his forces had killed 20 armed Palestinians over the past two days and one of the aims of the operation was to show the gunmen they had no safe haven. Separately, in the Gaza Strip, fire from soldiers guarding the “Dugit” settlement had killed a seven-year-old boy in the nearby Bedouin village of Beit Lahiya, Palestinian witnesses and medical officials said. A Palestinian woman delivered a stillborn baby in the West Bank village of Salfit, situated midway between Ramallah and Nablus, after IDF soldiers at Beit Rima checkpoint had denied her access to the Ramallah hospital. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

The PA said in a statement that the Israeli Government “was carrying out a massive attack by tanks, armoured vehicles and helicopters against the refugees” in the West Bank and called upon the United Nations Security Council to assume its responsibilities. Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller in Ramallah, Chairman Arafat called “on the international community for rapid action before the region explodes through these Israeli crimes.” Mr. Arafat accused Prime Minister Sharon of “having planned to destroy the camps” of Jenin and Balata and warned that “the Palestinian people and Arab nations will lose their patience.” For his part, Mr. Møller called on the IDF to withdraw and “stop the military escalation.” (AFP, XINHUA)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said she was dismayed at the IDF incursion into two West Bank refugee camps, stressing that the situation was “intolerable.” She added that she was also concerned about human insecurity in Israel and Israeli civilian deaths, but the two situations could not be equated, as the problem was “stemming from the occupation and from the resistance to occupation and the utter blockage of any kind of possible life for the civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories.” In a statement from Cairo that was released in Geneva, Ms. Robinson said the latest Israeli incursions were “in total disregard of international human rights and humanitarian law.” She joined UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in calling for “the immediate withdrawal of the IDF from the refugee camps, for an end to the attacks in densely populated areas and for ensuring full respect for the immunity of humanitarian facilities.” Ms. Robinson urged all parties concerned “to redouble their efforts to find a political way forward.” (AFP, Reuters)

“The acts of war committed in the refugee camps of Balata and Jenin are serious,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman François Rivasseau told a regular press briefing in Paris. “We warn the Israeli Government against the risk that these actions carry and we ask, like the Secretary-General of the United Nations, for the immediate retreat of the Israeli army,” the spokesman said, further noting that it was legitimate for the matter to be referred to the UN Security Council. (AFP, Reuters)

In a statement issued after meeting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer called on “Israel and the Palestinians to stop the violence without further delay” and said the German Government was “deeply worried” about the latest developments. (AFP)

“International law demands that Israel does everything it can to avoid civilian victims. I appeal, therefore, to the Government of Israel to consider its responsibility for peace and its humanitarian obligations by withdrawing immediately from the refugee camps,” Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh said in a statement, adding: “We regard what has happened as yet another terrifying escalation. Hope of positive political developments after the Saudi Arabian peace initiative have now been endangered.” (AFP)

2

An IDF statement said its troops had withdrawn to “control positions” on the edge of the Jenin refugee camp after seizing explosives and arresting a number of suspects for questioning. Palestinian medical officials said an 18-year-old boy had been shot dead when an IDF patrol opened fire on a group of stone-throwers outside the Balata camp. (AFP, Reuters)

“The presidency of the EU ... calls for the immediate withdrawal of the troops and the avoidance of any operation of this kind,” said a statement from Spain, current holder of the EU presidency, which also voiced its “special concern” over consequences it said could stem from the IDF entry into the camps. (Reuters)

Nabil Abu Rudeineh told AFP that Chairman Arafat had met with diplomatic representatives from several western and Arab countries and had called on their Governments “to send observers to monitor the very dangerous situation here.” (AFP)

An explosion in the Beit Yisrael area of West Jerusalem, near the ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Mea Shearim, set off by an 18-year-old carpenter from the Dheisheh refugee camp south of Bethlehem, killed nine people and wounded 51 others. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. “The Palestinian Authority condemns the attack in Jerusalem tonight, just as it condemns all attacks targeting civilians, whether Israelis or Palestinians,” said a statement carried by WAFA. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

3

Israeli tanks moved some 200 metres into Jenin, prompting Palestinian gunmen to open fire, to which the tanks responded with shells. A Palestinian sniper attacked an IDF checkpoint at Wadi al-Haramiya, north of Ramallah, near the “Ofra” settlement, killing ten Israelis – seven soldiers and three settlers – and wounding six others, four of them seriously. Israeli warplanes, helicopter gunships and tanks attacked PA targets in Ramallah in reprisal. A Palestinian policeman was killed when tanks shelled a Palestinian military intelligence building in Salfit. Another policeman was killed and 18 others wounded, one critically, in a rocket attack on a police installation in the Am’ari refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Ramallah. Two members of the Palestinian intelligence services were shot dead during a brief incursion by two Israeli tanks into Qalqilya. Four IDF soldiers were wounded at an IDF position south of the “Kissufim” crossing in the Gaza Strip. One of them later died in the hospital. The attack was claimed in a joint statement sent to AFP in Damascus by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades. Israeli units later moved 2 km into the area. (AFP, Arutz 7, Ha’aretz, Reuters, WAFA)

UN Special Coordinator Terje Rød-Larsen in a statement expressed “strong condemnation” of the West Jerusalem suicide attack of 2 March, and voiced his “serious concern over Israeli army operations, in particular the killing of civilians and the destruction of property.” He said the parties were “sinking deeper and deeper into the quagmire of death and counter death,” stressed that there was no military solution to the conflict, and called on both sides “to refocus efforts towards a negotiated solution,” the statement said. (AFP)

The Israeli Government expressed opposition to the Saudi peace initiative, with Prime Minister Sharon telling the weekly Cabinet meeting that the initiative sought to replace UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which called for “withdrawal from territories,” with a new international decision calling for Israel to withdraw from all territories to the borders as they were on 4 June 1967. Mr. Sharon said that every Israeli Government, as well as the US, agreed to the wording of the UN resolutions. Cabinet Secretary Gideon Saar said after the meeting “a decision calling for a complete withdrawal to the ‘67 lines makes negotiations superfluous, and Israel cannot accept the principle of initiative prior to negotiations nor decisions that harm its security. Withdrawal to the ‘67 borders is certainly a blow to Israel’s security.” Mr. Saar told reporters that he was speaking on behalf of the entire Government in accordance with the coalition agreement. (Ha’aretz)

In a three-hour meeting the Israeli Security Cabinet unanimously “approved principles of operation presented by the army to exert ongoing pressure on the Palestinian Authority and terror organizations,” an official cabinet statement said. The Government would take harsher military action in the Palestinian areas, including more air strikes and operations similar to the raids into the West Bank refugee camps. The military operations would focus on local militias and members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. However, the Cabinet decided to retain its policy of not personally harming Chairman Arafat. (AFP)

Palestinian officials said that the Palestinian agricultural sector had lost more than US$500 million due to Israeli actions since September 2000. They attributed most of the losses to closures, with another US$138 million coming from the destruction of orchards, greenhouses and farm buildings. (WAFA)

4

UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen visited the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. “I am shocked. I cannot imagine the horror felt by these families with children when commando soldiers came through the walls,” Mr. Hansen told reporters. “There has been serious material damage,” he added, noting that “many of the remaining houses were unsafe to live in.” (WAFA)

Seven Palestinians, two women and five children, were killed in Ramallah by a rocket from an Israeli helicopter gunship, or, according to another account, by a tank shell fired from the nearby “Psagot” settlement, at the pickup truck they were riding and a nearby car. The truck belonged to a Palestinian activist who was not in the car at the time of the attack but was used instead by his wife to pick up children from school. Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer expressed regret for the incident. “An Israeli military force identified a vehicle in which there were armed Palestinians and a single tank shell was fired towards the vehicle,” an IDF spokesman said. “A vehicle near the intended vehicle was hit and apparently civilians in the vehicle were hit as well, and we express deep regret over the death of innocent civilians.” Five Palestinians were killed by IDF troops, tanks and helicopter gunships in a new incursion into the Jenin refugee camp, and scores of others were wounded. However, no ambulances were allowed inside the camp, which did not help prevent the death of a wounded woman. Among the dead was the head of the Jenin Red Crescent ambulance station, whose ambulance was hit by a tank shell when it was trying to evacuate an injured girl. The driver and a paramedic were wounded, the latter critically. Three Palestinians, including a security officer, had been killed at the Rafah refugee camp during an incursion by the IDF troops backed by 14 tanks, Palestinian security sources said. Four dwellings had been destroyed by IDF bulldozers. (AFP, Ha’aretz, LAW, WAFA)

Pope John Paul II said he was deeply saddened by the recent escalation, and urged Israelis and Palestinians to “silence the guns.” (Ha’aretz)

The dead bodies of two Palestinians from the village of Tammun, northeast of Nablus, had been found by youths in the northern West Bank, Palestinian security forces said. (AFP)

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

(UN News Service)

During the night, Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles at the building next to Chairman Arafat’s HQ in Ramallah. “Mr. Arafat was in his office. He is fine and is continuing his work,” his Advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh told AFP in Gaza City. No injuries were reported. Palestinian security sources and eyewitnesses said Israeli fighter jets had also conducted air strikes on PA installations and buildings in Bethlehem. Witnesses said that they saw at least three F-16s overflying Bethlehem for 10 minutes and dropping six bombs on the main PA security complex, known as Al-Muqataa and destroying it. Six people were slightly wounded, including two policemen. Meanwhile, Palestinian eyewitnesses said that a big blast had been heard in a western neighbourhood of Gaza City, apparently caused by rockets fired by Israeli Navy boats at a building of Force 17, close to Chairman Arafat’s HQ in the city. (AFP, XINHUA)

The US State Department released its annual review of human rights around the world. With regard to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the report noted that none of the recommendations of the Mitchell report had been implemented by the end of the previous year, even though they had been officially endorsed by the two sides. “The nature of the violence changed during this year, leading to increased armed attacks and terrorism by Palestinians against Israeli targets,” the report said. Israel, meanwhile, had stepped up incursions in areas with heavy concentrations of Palestinian civilians and resorted to targeted killings of Palestinian militants and “sometimes excessive or indiscriminate fire toward Palestinian civilian areas,” the report said. It cited “credible anecdotal stories” suggesting that as many as several thousand Palestinians had encountered some form of abuse at checkpoints. “Palestinian terrorist groups, including some members of the security forces and Fatah’s Tanzim, had killed 208 Israeli soldiers and civilians in the violence that began in September 2000,” the report said. The IDF for their part had “killed at least 501 Palestinians and one foreign national and injured 6,300 Palestinians and other persons during the year, including innocent bystanders,” the report added. The report pointed out that the intifada “remain[ed] highly controversial between the parties” and stressed that its causes were complex. (AFP, Reuters)

President Hosni Mubarak, in a live broadcast interview on CNN, proposed to bring Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat together for a summit meeting at Sharm al-Sheikh. He said the meeting would not be to end the crisis “but to give the impression to both parties, to the peoples on both sides, to the people in the Arab world that there is a window of hope that we have to work with.” Mr. Mubarak said he would take up the idea with President Bush during a meeting on 5 March. Secretary of State Powell said he had discussed the issue in a meeting in Washington with Mr. Mubarak. “His idea is an interesting one, but of course it’s up to the two individuals, Mr. Arafat and Mr. Sharon, to decide which forum they would participate in,” he told reporters following a meeting with Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Mr. Powell also reaffirmed Washington’s willingness to work with Mr. Arafat. “I think that Chairman Arafat is still the elected head of the Palestinian Authority and seen by the Palestinian people as their leader, and that is the reason we continue to work with him and deal with him and his representatives,” he said. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters, XINHUA)

Prime Minister Sharon, in statements published by Ynet, the electronic edition of Yediot Ahronot, said “the Palestinians must receive hard blows now to get the idea out of their heads that they can force Israel to negotiate [through violence].” The paper added that Mr. Sharon believed that “negotiations with the PNA could be possible only if its forces’ and its terrorists’ spirits [were] crushed, because it [was] a coalition of terrorists.” (AFP, Comtex Scientific Corporation, the Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

5

The IDF bulldozers and tanks entered the town of Dura, south of Hebron, demolishing a house and prompting a firefight in which one man was killed and five wounded. Troops also entered the Palestinian-controlled sector of Hebron and wounded five Palestinians, including a 13-year-old girl who was critically hurt. Israeli helicopter gunships fired four missiles at the PA Security Forces HQ in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported. Helicopters later launched missiles at a prison and a police station in Nablus. An Israeli helicopter missile attack on a car near Ramallah killed an aide to Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Two other men, a Force 17 member and a civilian, had been seriously wounded in the attack. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

According to school officials, a teacher and eight students were injured when at least three bombs exploded in the yard of a Palestinian school in Sur Baher (East Jerusalem). A previously unknown Jewish group calling itself “Revenge of the Murdered Children” claimed the attack in a phone call to Israel Radio. (AFP, the Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

A Palestinian gunman shot dead three Israelis in a Tel Aviv restaurant and wounded 25 others. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack saying it was “in retaliation for the massacre of the women and children in Ramallah and the massacres in Jenin” the previous day. A Palestinian suicide bomber had blown himself up on a bus in the city of Afula, in northern Israel, killing one Israeli and wounding at least five, police said. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing. Palestinian gunmen shot dead an Israeli woman and wounded her husband as they drove on the Bethlehem bypass road near the village of Husana. Following a four-hour emergency meeting, the Israeli Security Cabinet decided to block Palestinian traffic in the West Bank and authorized the army to do whatever they had to restore security, Israel Radio reported. Israeli political sources said the security set-up would remain unchanged, meaning that Israel, which had allowed Chairman Arafat on 24 February to leave his compound in Ramallah while keeping him inside the town, would not send the tanks back within metres of his offices. (AFP, AP, Comtex Scientific Corporation, Ha’aretz, the Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

“Secretary Powell spoke with Prime Minister Sharon this morning about the situation and about what needs to be done to end the violence and get to a ceasefire,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. “In this context, Israeli military actions in densely populated civilian areas and attacks on or near Palestinian Authority administrative and security facilities clearly work against the overriding objective of reducing the violence and returning to negotiations,” Mr. Boucher noted, adding that “it is imperative that Israeli Defence Forces exercise the utmost restraint and discipline to avoid further harm to civilians.” Mr. Sharon’s office released a statement, which said that the Prime Minister had “informed Mr. Powell of the situation on the ground, the serious escalation and the terrorist acts of the past few days, including the suicide attack in Jerusalem in which were killed babies, children and women.” The statement further said Israel would “continue to take all necessary measures to protect the lives of its citizens” and that the State of Israel [would] not permit the Palestinian Authority and refugee camps to transform themselves into safe havens for terrorists.” (AFP)

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters aboard Air Force One that President Bush “condemns the recent violence that has taken place [in the Middle East] and he continues to believe that it remains in Chairman Arafat’s power to do more to stop the violence.” (AFP, the Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson told Reuters in an interview from Beirut that she wanted to “send a very strong message,” as part of her responsibility for human rights, that it was “absolutely urgent to have a political way forward.” “People cannot go on suffering this way. There is an international responsibility but there is also a responsibility on the Israeli Government and on the Palestinian Authority,” she said. She called on Arab and Western Governments to redouble efforts to revive stalled peace talks and said she hoped Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah’s initiative would “see the light.” (Reuters)

A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement expressed grave concern over the mounting violence in the Middle East. “The developments are going totally out of control and Turkey is seriously worried about this trend, which constitutes a serious threat to regional and international peace,” the statement said, adding that Turkey wanted to “once again remind both leaders that they have responsibilities towards their peoples and the international community and that they are expected to fulfil these responsibilities.” The Ministry urged both sides to take “determined” measures to stop violence and “to open the dialogue channels.” (AFP, DPA)

Following a meeting at the White House with President Mubarak, President Bush said Egypt and the US viewed the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians with “great alarm” and were determined to “redouble” their efforts for peace. In reference to Mr. Mubarak’s offer to host an Israeli-Palestinian summit and to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah’s land-for-peace initiative, Mr. Bush said the US Government supported “efforts to lay out a vision for a more peaceful tomorrow,” adding, however, that “this goal is only possible if there is a maximum effort to end violence throughout the region, starting with the Palestinian efforts to stop attacks against Israelis.” President Mubarak agreed with the need to end violence but said “…the Israeli Government should understand that the use of military power and unilateral measures against the Palestinian population – the closure of roads, the siege of towns and villages, the demolition of houses, the collective punishment that make progress more difficult – should stop.” The US was prepared to send Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni back to the region “when appropriate,” President Bush said, noting that the forthcoming trip to the Middle East by Vice-President Dick Cheney, originally intended to focus primarily on the war on terrorism, would also address Middle East peace efforts. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

6

Israeli forces attacked Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, a few hours after a rocket attack on the southern Israeli town of Sderot had injured three Israelis. The attack was claimed by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. Three Palestinians, a DFLP Central Committee member among them, and two Israeli soldiers were killed in an Israeli incursion at Abassan, near Khan Yunis, in the south of the Gaza Strip. According to Palestinian security sources, 14 Palestinians had been arrested, while, according to an IDF statement, three houses belonging to Palestinian militants wanted by Israel had been destroyed. In another operation, Israeli marines attacked Palestinian targets in Beit Lahia, killing four Palestinians and wounding five, one of them seriously. The military wing of Hamas said one of its members had died in an explosion at his home in Gaza City and accused Israel of killing him. Later in the day, Israeli aircraft fired at least one missile at a Palestinian security forces building in the Sheikh Rudwan district of Gaza City. Hospital officials said a woman and two children had been slightly hurt by debris. The Head of PA intelligence, Amin Al-Hindi, said the strike had taken place seconds before Palestinian security chiefs arrived for a high-level meeting, suggesting Israel had been trying to kill them. Meanwhile, in Nablus, a spokesman for Rafidiyeh Hospital said a 23-year-old Palestinian had died from injuries sustained in clashes with Israeli troops the previous day. Israeli helicopter gunships fired rockets at two buildings in Dhahiriya town, south of Hebron, causing no injuries but destroying one of the buildings, which housed Fatah offices. (AFP, EFE, Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon said the current military operations against the Palestinians were “necessary” for a return to a “political process,” Israeli Public Radio reported. “The army has been given a programme of action aimed [at] hitting terrorist organizations and the structures of the Palestinian Authority which give them aid,” Mr. Sharon was quoted as saying. (AFP)

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

(UN Press Release SG/SM/8153 of 6 March 2002)

“If you declare war on the Palestinians and think you can solve the problem by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed - I don’t know that leads us anywhere,” Secretary of State Powell told a committee of the US House of Representatives. He demanded more action from Chairman Arafat to crack down on violence, noting, however that, “[a]t the same time, Prime Minister Sharon has to take a hard look at his policies and see whether they will work.” “I am not satisfied that both sides have thought through the consequences of the policies they are following,” Mr. Powell added. In reply to Secretary Powell’s comments, Prime Minister Sharon’s office issued a statement saying “Israel never declared war on the Palestinians, but wages a war against terrorist organizations as legitimate defence,” adding that the “the Palestinian Authority is the one who launched this war, it has the means to stop it, but it prefers to pursue this terrorist war [against Israel].” (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli helicopter gunships had fired two missiles at a Palestinian security building adjacent to the offices of Chairman Arafat, only about a dozen metres away, as he was meeting with EU Middle East Envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos, Palestinian security sources said. There had been no casualties. A reporter for WAFA said that the two missiles had destroyed the building, while shaking the doors and windows of the room where the meeting had been taking place. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Comtex Scientific Corporation, the Jerusalem Post, Reuters, XINHUA)

Two Palestinians were killed when Israeli tanks fired on a security post near the “Netzarim” settlement in the central Gaza Strip. The IDF said the two were killed as they attempted to plant a bomb on the main road to the settlement. Four Palestinian policemen were seriously wounded when the Israeli navy opened fire on Palestinian police buildings at the southern entrance to Gaza City. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Foreign Minister Peres called on Saudi Arabia formally to present its Middle East peace proposal to Israel. (AFP, the Jerusalem Post)

7

The IDF encircled Tulkarm with 50 tanks and reoccupied the city along with the nearby Tulkarm and Nur Shams refugee camps, in an operation that killed 6 Palestinians and injured 35 people, two of them critically. Troops backed by tanks were searching Nur Shams house by house. Col. Yair Golan told Israeli Public Radio that the operation could last “as long as two days” and that it was aimed at “catching as many wanted militants as possible, as well as arms.” An Israeli bulldozer had entered a school run by UNRWA at the edge of Tulkarm, and had destroyed walls and torn up the playground, an AFP correspondent said. A member of the Islamic Jihad had been killed early in the day by the IDF during an incursion into Sirris, in the northern West Bank, Palestinian security sources said. Israeli fighter jets attacked the Force 17 HQ in Bethlehem; no injuries were reported. Ten civilians were injured when an Israeli fighter jet attacked the Palestinian police HQ in central Gaza City. An empty building was targeted, and civilians nearby were injured by shrapnel. Two Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles at the Palestinian police HQ in the village of Yatta, south of Hebron. Palestinian security sources said the building had been destroyed, and no injuries were reported. (AFP, Ha’aretz, the Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

A Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and wounded 14 people in the lobby of a hotel just outside the “Ariel” settlement in the West Bank. A caller to AFP claimed responsibility for the PFLP military wing, Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades. (AFP, Reuters)

President Bush announced from the White House Rose Garden, with Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Powell at his side, that he was dispatching US Middle East Envoy Anthony Zinni back to the region. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

A 40-year-old UNRWA security guard, Kamal Hamdan, who worked out of the Tulkarm refugee camp, was killed when the ambulance he was riding in was hit by Israeli gunfire while transporting a critically wounded refugee to the hospital. According to a UN spokesman, four bullets struck the vehicle, which was clearly marked as a UN ambulance. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

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

(UN Press Release SG/SM/8156 of 7 March 2002)

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko reiterated Moscow’s concerns over the situation in the Middle East, saying it was “continuing to develop into an extremely dangerous scenario.” “We deeply regret to notice that the Israeli military operation resulted in civilian casualties. Over the past few days, such incidents have taken place as raids on Yasser Arafat’s residence when EU Special Envoy Moratinos was there, on a Palestinian school and on offices of [UNRWA],” he said, stressing that this strategy could only lead to a deadlock and would not bring any guarantee for Israel’s security. (XINHUA)

Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa said in a statement that “everything that is going on now requires swift and decisive intervention. It is Israel, not the Arabs, which must be asked to stop the violence,” adding that “what is going on in the Occupied Palestinian Territory places big question marks over the current international system and whether it permits a military occupying State to practise this military violence on civilians.” (AFP)

Five Israelis were killed and more than 20 wounded after a Palestinian gunman infiltrated the “Atzmona” settlement, part of the “Gush Katif” settlement block in the southern Gaza Strip. The gunman first entered the study area of the pre-military academy, opened fire with his Kalashnikov assault rifle and threw grenades at students who were studying. He then ran into the street and opened fire at passers-by and houses, the IDF reported. "An army officer who lives in the community and other army forces who arrived at the scene shot down the terrorist and killed him," an IDF spokeswoman told AFP. The attack was claimed by an armed wing of Hamas. (AFP)

8

Following the overnight attack on the “Atzmona” settlement by a Palestinian who was also shot dead, Israeli forces reportedly killed more than 30 Palestinians in extensive operations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. IDF tanks, APCs and bulldozers entered the villages of Khuzaa and Abassan, near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, killing 16 Palestinians and arresting around 10 before pulling out shortly after dawn. Among the dead from the incursion was the PA head of public security for the southern Gaza Strip, 62-year-old Gen. Ahmad Mufrij, the most senior Palestinian security official to have been killed since the beginning of the intifada in September 2000. Israeli helicopters later fired rockets at the PA security HQ in Khan Yunis, just as senior officials, including Gaza Strip General Security Chief Abdel Razeq Al-Majeida, were in the compound preparing Gen. Mufrij’s funeral. Gen. Al-Majeida escaped injury but said the Israeli strike had been a deliberate assassination attempt. North of Gaza City, four Palestinians, including two policemen and an ambulance worker, were killed when Israeli gunboats and helicopters fired rockets at a police post. Medical workers said their colleague had been killed by an Israeli missile, while trying to reach the injured. In the northern West Bank, Israeli forces pulled out of the Nur Shams refugee camp but continued to occupy Tulkarm and the nearby refugee camp. Six Palestinians were killed in clashes in the camp, and a 9-year-old boy was shot dead in the city. An 11-year-old Palestinian was killed in the Jenin refugee camp. In Bethlehem, three Palestinians were killed and dozens injured in clashes with the IDF in the Aida refugee camp. In its hunt for militants, the IDF reportedly repeated the method used in the Balata refugee camp a week ago, moving from house to house by breaking through partition walls to avoid being exposed to Palestinian snipers outside (“mouseholing”). According to witnesses, tanks had also moved into the village of Al-Khader, near Bethlehem, destroying several houses and uprooting trees. (AFP, AP, DPA)

Dozens of armed settlers entered the village of Huwwara, in “Area B” north-east of the “Ariel” settlement and south of Nablus, fired randomly and caused damage to Palestinian property. Four Palestinians had been injured, while the local mosque and clinic had been damaged, residents said. Police arrested some of the settlers and confiscated their weapons. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Mahmoud Salah, a 22-year-old Palestinian from Beit Wazan, near Nablus, was shot in the head by Israeli police in Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem and left to die. The Arabic web page of Yediot Aharonot reported that police officers at the scene had acted under direct instructions of Jerusalem Police chief Mickey Levy and the Palestinian had resisted arrest and stopped a sapper from defusing explosives. However, more than 10 eyewitnesses interviewed by AFP contradicted the police accounts, saying the handcuffed suspect was “executed in cold blood half an hour after his arrest.” (AFP, LAW)

In a telephone conversation initiated by Secretary of State Powell, Chairman Arafat had called for “immediate US intervention to stop the massacres taking place in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” Mr. Arafat’s adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh told AFP. (AFP)

Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Relations Miquel Nadal, sitting in for Foreign Minister Josep Piqué and speaking in the name of the Spanish EU Presidency, told Israeli Ambassador to Spain Herzl Inbar that recent attacks contributed nothing to the Middle East peace efforts made by the EU and others. He also asked Israel for an explanation of the incident during which a helicopter-launched rocket struck the compound of Chairman Arafat in Ramallah while he was conferring with EU envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos. (DPA, EFE)

After talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, EU special Middle East envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos voiced the hope that the Beirut Arab Summit later this month would endorse the Saudi peace initiative. Mr. Moratinos said the Summit “could be … a real historic one of tremendous consequences for peace in the area,” adding he thought it was time that Israel be “recognized and accepted by the Arab world but it [was] also very important that the Arab world [would] recuperate the territories that were occupied.” Mr. Moratinos said the EU was committed to doing “whatever is necessary to make the Beirut summit a success,” and this should include Chairman Arafat’s attendance at the forum. (AFP)

Expressing “outrage” at the deaths of Palestinian ambulance workers, four of whom had been killed in the course of the current week, ICRC representative in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory René Kosirnik urged both sides and “first and foremost the Israeli armed forces” to respect the safety of medical personnel under international humanitarian law. IDF West Bank Commander Brig.-Gen. Gershon Yitzhak had reportedly accused the Palestinians of using ambulances to move gunmen and ammunition, a claim the ICRC said the authorities had failed so far to substantiate. Before leading a protest march by Palestinian doctors, nurses and ambulance teams to an Israeli military checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem, the head of the Red Crescent Society, Younis Al-Khatib, said those responsible for the death and injury of ambulance teams and other humanitarian workers should be prosecuted as war criminals. According to the ICRC, which liaises with the Israeli authorities to obtain access for Red Crescent ambulances to conflict zones, more than 130 Red Crescent staff had been wounded in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 17 months of violence. More than 70 per cent of the Society’s 100 or so ambulances had been damaged or attacked, some of them repeatedly, ICRC spokeswoman Aleksandra Matijevic said. Separately, PA Health Minister Riyad Za’anoon accused the IDF of using a Palestinian ambulance and opening fire from it during a dawn incursion on the road between Khuzaa and Abassan, near Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip. He said Israeli soldiers had forced the driver and the nurse out of the ambulance and had taken control of it. (AFP, Reuters)

Amnesty International called on the international community to act immediately to save Palestinian and Israeli lives by insisting on an international presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “Remaining silent amounts to condoning the escalation of killings, violence and retaliation,” it said. (AI press release MDE 15/017/2002)

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel submitted its second urgent petition to the Israeli Supreme Court against IDF commanders in the West Bank and the Gaza strip on the issue of IDF attacks on ambulances and prevention of evacuation. (PHR-Israel press release)

The US Administration had been trying to promote a new Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire initiative, under which Israel would drop its demand for seven days of absolute quiet in exchange for a US pledge to monitor the PA’s implementation of its commitments, Ha’aretz reported. A first step in these efforts was the previous day’s announcement by President Bush that he was sending special envoy Anthony Zinni back to the region. Under the new US initiative, the two sides would begin to implement the Tenet ceasefire plan immediately, without waiting for a drop in the violence, with the goal of then moving on to the Mitchell Report recommendations for resuming negotiations. Gen. Zinni would stay in the region to monitor implementation of the PA’s commitments under the Tenet plan, which included arresting wanted terrorists and collecting illegal weapons. The new US plan also reportedly included support for the Saudi peace initiative, under which the Arab world would promise Israel full normalization of relations in exchange for full withdrawal to the 1967 borders and efforts to revitalize the Palestinian economy. In particular, the US was suggesting that Israel would use frozen PA funds, currently totalling more than NIS 1 billion, to fund economic projects in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. US Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer had met during the week with Prime Minister Sharon, Foreign Minister Peres, Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer and other politicians to discuss the initiative, Ha’aretz said, adding that Mr. Sharon had announced on 7 March that he would bring the Tenet and Mitchell plans to the Cabinet for formal approval on 10 March, to remove any doubts regarding Israel’s acceptance of these documents, since neither of them had been formally approved by the Cabinet before. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Speaking to reporters a day after his return from the US, where he had accompanied President Mubarak on his official visit, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said new ideas for reviving the Middle East peace process were being examined in Washington. “We have heard some and we encouraged some,” he said, without giving details. He added that “[u]ntil these new American steps are achieved, it is important to explain to Israel that the action it is taking against the Palestinian people must stop.” Mr. Maher welcomed the new, more critical US tone vis-à-vis Prime Minister Sharon and said the recent Saudi initiative and the support it had attracted had worried the Israeli side and was “probably one of the reasons for the intensification of aggression against the Palestinian people.” (AFP)

9

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Israeli Government to instruct soldiers to immediately refrain from attacking medical personnel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “Attacking humanitarian personnel and their vehicles is strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law,” said Joe Stork, Washington Director of the HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division, and added that “Israel should take immediate steps to prevent any recurrence of these attacks.” HRW said deliberate attacks on medical personnel, vehicles and infrastructure constitute a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions. (HRW, WAFA)

Two Palestinian gunmen threw grenades and opened fire at a seafront hotel in Netanya. Two Israelis were killed and more than 30 wounded, police said. The Palestinians were chased by police and shot dead in front of a second hotel nearby, Israeli authorities said. A third man was also shot dead and police initially thought he also was a Palestinian gunman, but later confirmed he was an Israeli citizen. It was not clear who shot the third man dead, police said. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. Later in the day, a Palestinian walked into café “Moment,” a crowded garden café across the street from Prime Minister Sharon’s walled residential compound in the Rehavia area of Jerusalem, and detonated explosives, killing 11 people. Hamas claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in a statement, saying it was “the beginning of retaliatory activities for Sharon’s war on the refugee camps.” The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades also claimed it had organized the attack. (AP, the New York Times)

A 15-year-old Palestinian girl and a policeman reportedly died in refugee camps near Bethlehem of gunshot wounds sustained as the result of Israeli forces’ activity in the area, according to Palestinian officials and hospital doctors. (AP)

The IDF detained an estimated 250 Palestinian men for interrogation in the Tulkarm refugee camp. It was the second day of mass detentions in Tulkarm, which provoked widespread anger among Palestinians. On both days, Israeli troops using loudspeakers ordered all men, ages 16 to 40, to report to a girls’ school for questioning. The men held their hands over their heads as they walked through the streets under Israeli soldiers’ guns. The IDF had detained about 500 Palestinians at the school on 8 March, and had later taken them to an army base for interrogation. About 50 of those men had been wanted by Israel, the IDF said. (AP)

Israeli warplanes and helicopters fired missiles at two Palestinian security buildings in Gaza City and at two PA complexes in Nablus. Seven people were injured in one of the Gaza strikes, hospital officials said. Israeli tanks and bulldozers also moved into a neighbourhood near Khan Yunis, flattening seven houses, witnesses said. (AP)

10

Speaking at an Israeli Cabinet meeting that was called to allow the Prime Minister to explain his reasons for dropping his long-standing demand for seven days of quiet before holding ceasefire negotiations, Mr. Sharon said that Israel was in a “war situation,” and that he was “ready to do all I can to reach a ceasefire.” The National Union-Yisrael Beitenu faction unanimously decided to resign from the Government following Prime Minister’s decision. (AFP, BBC, Ha’aretz)

Missiles fired by Israeli helicopters and gunboats totally destroyed Chairman Arafat’s HQ in Gaza City known as Al-Muntada. The building had served as HQ since August 1994 and also housed the main studios of Palestine TV and the Palestine satellite channel. (WAFA)

The IDF moved into the Rafah refugee camp and opened heavy machine-gun fire, injuring five Palestinians and destroying three Palestinian security positions. (WAFA)

A Palestinian died from his wounds when Israeli soldiers guarding the “Netzarim” settlement in the Gaza Strip shot him and then prevented a Palestinian ambulance from getting to the scene of the incident. (AFP)

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Mofaz said that the army was planning a partial call-up of reservists who lived in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and could protect their own settlements. The army was opposed to a general call-up, but might decide to call up a few brigades. Any such decision would need the approval of the Chief of Staff and the Cabinet. The IDF also submitted a plan calling for large-scale operations in additional West Bank towns and refugee camps. (Arutz 7, Ha’aretz)

The Beirut-based newspaper An-Nahar reported that a US diplomat had recently met with a member of the Hamas diplomatic committee in Damascus to find out whether movements such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad would agree to an Israeli retreat to the original 1967 borders, or whether they were still intent on destroying Israel. (Ha’aretz)

11

IDF shot dead a Palestinian policeman and wounded two others in an incursion into Al-Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. In a separate incident, a 17-year-old Palestinian was shot dead in the main street of Beit ‘Amra village, about 10km south of Hebron, and two friends walking with him were wounded. Meanwhile, Israeli missiles had reportedly killed two Palestinians on the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. (AFP, Ha’aretz, MIFTAH)

About 50 Israeli tanks and APCs moved into Qalqilya from three directions overnight, cutting off the electrical supply before troops thrust as deep as 1km into the city. IDF forces conducted house-to-house searches for wanted militants, killing two Palestinians – a member of Force 17 and a civilian, injuring four, one seriously, and arresting around 600. The men were handcuffed and blindfolded and some of them were driven away by the army, Palestinian security sources said. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

IDF troops carried out house-to-house searches in the Dheisheh refugee camp, with all men reported arrested or fled. An Israeli security source said soldiers had rounded up between 500 and 600 men, blindfolded them and searched for weapons. (AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The Foreign Ministers of the Arab League approved at their 117th meeting in Cairo a document on the Middle East problem. It called on the international community to make Israel implement the Security Council resolutions on the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all the Arab lands they had occupied in 1967. The Ministers stressed the Arab essence of Jerusalem. They reaffirmed their adherence to the decision, adopted at the Arab Summit, to sever relations with any State that recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or moved there its embassy to Israel. The session focused on the Saudi initiative, which did not call for the “normalization of relations”, but for the “establishment by Arab nations of complete peace with Israel, in exchange for its withdrawal from the Arab territories occupied in 1967 and for the creation of a Palestinian State.” The meeting also decided to increase from US$45 to US$55 million the total monthly financial aid to the PA for the next 6 months. (ITAR-TASS)

In a statement, Prime Minister Sharon’s office said the Prime Minister had decided “to restrict no longer Arafat’s movements in PA territory,” after the arrest of the last suspect in the killing of Israeli Cabinet Minister Ze’evy, but any trip abroad would need approval by Israel. (Reuters)

An explosive device was found in a Palestinian girls’ school near Bethlehem, with Jewish extremists suspected. (Ha’aretz)

Gulf Cooperation Council Foreign Ministers ended a one-day meeting in Saudi Arabia, expressing their will to reach an agreement to allow Arab countries and Israel to “coexist peacefully.” In a communiqué, the Ministers also praised the Saudi peace plan and said that they would ask the international community to press Israel to end “the massacre of Palestinians.” (DPA)

12

Tanks and troops backed by helicopter gunships entered the Jabalya refugee camp, near Gaza City overnight, sparking intense fighting. Hospital sources said at least 17 people had been killed and 50 injured before the tanks withdrew four hours later. Witnesses said the soldiers had blown up three foundries and two adjacent homes. An Israeli military source said at least one of the foundries had been used by the armed wing of Hamas to make short-range Qassam rockets. According to Palestinian security and medical sources, Israeli helicopter gunships had attacked with missiles a metal and aluminium factory located in a densely populated area of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, killing at least three persons and wounding 10 others. The sources said one of the houses adjacent to the factory had caught fire and several other houses nearby had been damaged. Palestinian security sources said Israeli helicopters had also hit two PA police and military intelligence posts in Rafah, causing severe damage, but no injuries. In the central Gaza Strip, the Israeli navy struck a PA naval HQ and other security targets near Deir el-Balah with rockets, reportedly killing one man and injuring six others. A Palestinian teenaged girl died in Hebron of wounds sustained a week earlier and a member of the Israeli security services was killed in a Palestinian ambush near the “Modi’in Illit” (“Kyriat Sefer”) settlement west of Ramallah. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

In what was reportedly the largest show of force since the start of the intifada in late September 2000, over 100 IDF tanks entered Ramallah and nearby refugee camps. Israeli soldiers shot dead a 56-year-old Palestinian civilian in the city. According to Palestinian officials, Israeli forces had killed two Palestinians in the town of Al-Bireh, adjacent to Ramallah, while another two Palestinians had been killed in fighting with troops near the Am’ari refugee camp on the outskirts of Ramallah. A senior IDF officer was quoted as saying the intention was to form “a wall – figuratively speaking,” between Ramallah and Jerusalem, since allegedly most of those who had carried out the recent terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and its environs had come from Ramallah. By the end of the day a total of 40 Palestinians had been reported killed during IDF operations. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

Chairman Arafat’s advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the PA called on the UN Security Council to “immediately send international observers” and held the Israeli Government “responsible for this dangerous escalation and for the deterioration of the situation.” He added that “the invasion of Ramallah this morning and the massacres committed during the night in Jabaliya are proof of the determination of the Government [of Prime Minister] Sharon to destroy all chances for saving the situation.” (AFP, Reuters)

The IDF had withdrawn from Wadi al-Salqa in the central Gaza Strip, after arresting 19 Palestinians, Mayor Yussef Abu al-Ajin told AFP by telephone. The troops had occupied the town for several hours, searching houses and interrogating the population. Residents of the town said the Israelis had ordered all men aged 16 to 60 to gather in a large square near the mosque, where they had been blindfolded and their hands tied. Mr. Ajin said some 80 had been freed before the Israelis withdrew. Military sources reportedly indicated that in recent sweeps nearly 10 per cent of those rounded up had been arrested. (AFP)

The IDF Chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz, had ordered soldiers to stop writing numbers on the arms of Palestinian detainees, Israel Army Radio reported. Gen. Mofaz announced that an inquiry had been opened into the practice, after reports that it had been used following Israeli incursions into the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In an interview broadcast on Abu Dhabi TV, Chairman Arafat had said Israeli soldiers had been treating Palestinians like the Nazis had treated the Jews. ICRC sources had confirmed that Israeli troops had tattooed numbers on the arms of several Palestinians arrested in the past few days and held in an Israeli detention camp near Tulkarm. A halt to the practice had been demanded by several Knesset members, including Tommy Lapid (Shinui), a Holocaust survivor, who had said the practice was “intolerable.” Prime Minister Sharon’s spokesman Ra’anan Gissin said such a practice by the IDF “was badly received by the media and we should find another means of identifying prisoners.” An estimated 2,000 Palestinians had recently been rounded up, but military spokesman Olivier Rafowicz said that most had been released and only a few dozen were still being held for further verification. He said that if the army wanted to keep suspects for more than 96 hours they must be brought before a judge. A military source said 66 men were still being held out of 600 detained in Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, 66 out of 800 held in Tulkarm, and at least 50 out of 600 in Qalqilya. (AFP, XINHUA)

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said the latest Israeli offensives were “incomprehensible after [Prime Minister] Sharon’s [recent] announcements and tragic in that we see the list of victims grow each day.” “We are particularly concerned about the grave difficulties being experienced by humanitarian personnel and their vehicles trying to bring aid to the civilian population,” he added, noting that Israel had an obligation to allow humanitarian access to the area and reaffirming France’s support for the idea of an international observer force to monitor the conflict. (AFP)

Addressing the Security Council in New York, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave his assessment of the situation on the ground, which he said was “the worst in ten years.” He was “profoundly disturbed” by the increasing use of heavy weaponry by Israel in civilian areas. He also noted that large-scale military operations in pursuit of Palestinian militants had taken place throughout civilian areas and refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, causing large-scale loss of life, just as international agencies were reporting growing disregard on the part of the IDF for the safety of medical personnel. Addressing the Palestinians, the Secretary-General said they had the inalienable right to “a viable State within secure, internationally recognized borders. But you must stop all acts of terror and all suicide bombings.” He called the deliberate and indiscriminate targeting of civilians “morally repugnant,” adding that the practice was harming the Palestinian cause by weakening international support, while making Israelis believe “that it is their existence as a State, and not the occupation, that is being opposed.” Addressing the Israelis, Mr. Annan said: “You have the right to live in peace and security within secure internationally recognized borders. But you must end the illegal occupation.” He called on Israel to stop the bombing of civilian areas, the assassinations, the unnecessary use of lethal force, the demolitions and “the daily humiliation of ordinary Palestinians.” Such actions, he pointed out, “gravely erode Israel’s standing within the international community and further fuel the fires of hatred, despair and extremism among Palestinians.” Addressing the leadership of both sides, the Secretary-General said: “You have accepted the Tenet Understandings and the Mitchell Recommendations as the basis for negotiations. Today, more than ever, you must recognize that security and a political settlement are indivisible. One cannot exist without the other. Many of your friends stand ready to support you if you seize this opportunity.” He referred to the Saudi Crown Prince’s “clear and compelling vision for peace in the Middle East based on the bedrock of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338” and appealed to the Arab leaders to unite in support of this vision. He called on Messrs Arafat and Sharon “immediately to take the necessary political, security and economic steps on the ground, which can help realize this vision” and on the Security Council “to lend its full authority and influence to the vital cause of peace.” (UN News Centre)

Late at night, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1397 (2002) on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question,” with 14 votes in favour, none against, and one abstention (Syrian Arab Republic). The resolution was sponsored by the US and referred for the first time to a Palestinian State, affirming “a vision of a region where two States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognised borders.” The resolution demanded “the immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction,” while calling upon Israel and the Palestinians to take steps towards resuming peace talks. PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, speaking on Palestinian radio, called the resolution a “great success for the Palestinians,” but stressed, however, that it was “not sufficient.” He called for “clear and active steps to end the Israeli violence and the occupation.” Chairman Arafat’s advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the resolution was important and showed for the first time “the unanimity at the heart of the Security Council on the establishment of a Palestinian State.” Foreign Minister Peres said “Israel welcome[d] the efforts of the US to include within today’s Security Council resolution a clause calling for the immediate cessation of terrorism and incitement,” adding that Israel wanted to achieve an “immediate ceasefire through implementation of the Mitchell and Tenet plans in order to pave the way toward a renewal of the peace process and a return to the negotiating table.” (AFP, DPA, XINHUA)

13

The following statement was made by Secretary-General Kofi Annan during a press conference at UNHQ in New York:

(UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/News)

UN Security Council resolution 1397 (2002) was welcomed by the Governments of France, Germany, Sweden and Russia, among others. The resolution was also welcomed by the European Parliament. The European Commission called the resolution a “very important” political move. Commission President Romano Prodi, at a news conference said he completely condemned “Israel’s re-occupation” of the Palestinian areas, “the use of military means in civilian areas” and the “destruction of public institutions in Palestine, which humiliate” the Palestinian people. Mr. Prodi said that he also found the Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians “repugnant,” noting that they only served to create greater hatred. He reiterated the EU’s view that there was no military solution to the conflict. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

“China will support, as always, the just cause of the Palestinians to restore their legal rights,” senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official Yang Wenchang said. Mr. Yang told a meeting of 22 envoys from the League of Arab States in Beijing that China was “anxious and deeply concerned” about the number of casualties and destruction of property suffered by Palestinians. “China condemns Israel’s military attacks, its economic blockade of Palestine, and abhors its act of limiting the freedom of movement of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and of destroying his headquarters and official buildings in Gaza and Nablus,” Mr. Yang said. (XINHUA)

The deputy commander of Force 17 in Ramallah was killed during a gun fight with the IDF in the centre of the city. Israeli soldiers had expanded their control to the whole of Ramallah with the exception of the area surrounding the HQ of Chairman Arafat, Palestinian eyewitnesses reported. The death of the Force 17 commander brought to six the total number of Palestinians killed so far in Israel’s re-occupation of Ramallah since 12 March. An Italian freelance photographer Raffaele Ciriello, 42, was also killed after being hit in the abdomen by seven bullets fired from an Israeli tank’s machine-gun. In a separate incident, a French news photographer was moderately wounded in the leg. Another Palestinian was shot and killed near Hebron when Israeli soldiers opened fire at his car. (AFP, DPA)

The Foreign Press Association issued a statement calling on Israelis and Palestinians to investigate the circumstances of Raffaele Ciriello’s death “and punish those found responsible,” adding that “we must note that previous such requests to the Israeli army and our warnings that laxness could lead to a tragedy went largely unheeded.” The IDF, in a statement of their own, expressed “deep sorrow for all injuries to civilians or members of the press” and said that “from an initial investigation it appear[ed] that the army forces did not identify the press members in the area.” “It is impossible at this point, due to the lack of details, to determine what was the source of the fire from which the journalists were hit,” the statement said. Another statement from the Foreign Press Association said it was “shocked” by the death of the Italian photographer and called on “all sides to the fighting to make every possible effort to avoid harming journalists or impeding their work. (DPA, XINHUA)

Dr. Munther Al-Shareef, the PA Deputy Health Minister, said two Israeli tanks had blocked access to the two main hospitals in Ramallah for 13 hours during the IDF’s occupation of the city. Mr. Al-Shareef said the blockade had been eased only after he had telephoned Israeli officials and told them that they would operate on patients in the streets if the blockade did not stop. An Israeli army spokesman denied that troops had closed the hospitals to the wounded seeking help. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society, meanwhile, said two Palestinians had died overnight, one from bullet wounds and the other from diabetes, because ambulances could not reach them. (Reuters)

French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine was quoted as saying to Le Monde that it was time to stop blaming Chairman Arafat solely for the failure of the Camp David peace talks and of assuming that the PA had started the September 2000 intifada. Wrong too had been the insistence until recently on a period of calm before the launch of new political talks and the assumption that military action by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory would bring security to Israel, Mr. Védrine said, adding that “nearly 1,400 deaths and a year later, it has been demonstrated that this policy, with which the United States has gone along and to which the Europeans should earlier have come up with alternatives, is not working.” He noted that there was no alternative to new peace talks and called on the Arab countries at their Beirut summit on 27 March to support the efforts of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to promote a peace plan. He cited the scheduled arrival of US Envoy Gen. Zinni in the region as one of several encouraging signs, despite the IDF’s continued offensive. Mr. Védrine also called on EU leaders to try to come up with concrete contributions to solving the conflict at their summit in Barcelona on 15-16 March. (AFP, Reuters)

A statement from Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said the latest escalation of violence in the Middle East represented a new and serious threat to the health of affected people, Palestinians, Israelis, and others caught in the conflict. She pointed out that “the targeting of civilians in the conflict [was] a deplorable development. Beyond the immediate death and injuries there is a long term price that will be borne, particularly by children, whose psychological health is being directly affected.” She said she was deeply troubled by the fact that several of the casualties had been health workers who were responding to people’s acute needs and distress. Ms. Brundtland appealed to all sides in the conflict to accept the pivotal role of doctors, nurses and paramedical workers on duty. (XINHUA)

Addressing a group of Christians, Jews and Muslims from the Middle East in Rome for inter-religious dialogue, Pope John Paul II said he was saddened by the violence in the Holy Land and offered the help of the Catholic Church to do anything to end the bloodshed. (AFP, Reuters)

Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit had sent a special envoy to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to plead for an end to the violence and return to peace talks, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. (AFP)

Speaking at a White House news conference, President Bush said that although he understood “someone trying to defend themselves and to fight terror,” recent Israeli actions were “not helpful.” Mr. Bush said that civilian casualties, particularly among the Palestinian population in the last several days, were unacceptable, and called on both sides “to work hard to create the conditions of a potential settlement.” He called the resolution adopted by the UN Security Council on 12 March “a universal message that can lead to a more peaceful world,” by urging the two sides to adopt the Tenet understandings and the Mitchell Committee recommendations, and expressed optimism about Gen. Zinni’s new mission to the region. According to US officials, before his departure Gen. Zinni had met with Secretary of State Powell for a last-minute briefing on his mission, following talks in the region between, on the one hand, US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer and Prime Minister Sharon and, on the other hand, US Consul General in Jerusalem Ronald Schlicher and Chairman Arafat. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Messrs Kurtzer and Schlicher had impressed on Messrs Sharon and Arafat respectively the need to take steps to ease rising violence. He declined to comment on the specifics of the discussions and said both Israel and the Palestinians “need[ed] to consider the consequences of their actions and we’ve stressed again and again the need for immediate action.” A senior State Department official said, on condition of anonymity, that Mr. Kurtzer had told Mr. Sharon that “pulling back from some of the incursions,” preferably ahead of Gen. Zinni’s arrival, was a positive step the US would like to see form the Israeli side. (AFP, Reuters)

Chairman Arafat’s advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Secretary of State Powell had held telephone talks with Mr. Arafat on the eve of Gen. Zinni’s new mission to the region, and had said that Mr. Zinni “was coming to apply the Tenet plan and the Mitchell report.” Mr. Powell also told Chairman Arafat that the US was “committed to the principle of establishing a Palestinian State that has recognized borders,” Mr. Abu Rudeineh said, adding that the two had discussed UN Security Council resolution 1397 (2002). (AFP, DPA)

The Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted a resolution strongly condemning the destruction of the Gaza International Airport and its air navigation facilities as a violation of the 1944 Chicago Convention. The issue had been referred to the ICAO Council by the High-level Ministerial Conference on Aviation Security held at the ICAO HQ on 19 and 20 February, on the basis of a paper presented by the Arab Civil Aviation Commission. (ICAO press release PIO 03/2002)

14

Israeli snipers operating in Ramallah had killed three policemen and a member of Fatah, Palestinian sources said. An Israeli tank was blown up in the Gaza Strip, killing three soldiers and injuring two others, in an attack claimed by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. The tank was reportedly guarding the road between the “Netzarim” settlement and the “Karni” crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Following the attack, IDF tanks had penetrated 1.5 km and occupied Al-Meghraqa village, south of “Netzarim,” to carry out searches, a Palestinian official said, adding that two police posts had been demolished. Residents told AFP that the army had bulldozed five Palestinian houses. Homes were also being searched. In a separate incident at a farm in the village of Anabta, near Tulkarm, Palestinian sources said an Israeli helicopter gunship had killed a local leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades by hitting his car with at least one missile. A civilian bystander had also been killed in the strike. Two aides had been wounded, one critically, and another bystander had also been wounded. (AFP, DPA, EFE, Reuters)

“Our resistance will continue and we will defend ourselves with all possible means,” Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said, despite Gen. Zinni’s new mission to the region. “Attacks would stop only if the Palestinians have their full sovereignty over all their lands occupied in 1967,” Sheikh Yassin noted, adding that Hamas would never stop attacks as long as the Palestinian people were occupied. (Reuters, XINHUA)

Hours before Gen. Zinni’s arrival in the region, Chairman Arafat’s adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh said there would not be any meetings with any Israelis until the latter “stop their aggression and withdraw from all the cities, including Bethlehem and Ramallah and cities in Gaza.” PA Preventive Security chief Mohammed Dahlan said he had told Foreign Minister Peres in a telephone conversation the previous day that Israeli forces must “withdraw unconditionally” before ceasefire negotiations could begin. (Reuters)

“Russia welcomes the recent UN resolution, which recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to their own statehood,” President Putin stated in Moscow, after a meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad. Mr. Putin emphasized that Russia had been stating this position “repeatedly and for long enough.” Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa said in Cairo that the latest Security Council resolution represented “an important and impartial development in the international community’s handling of the Israeli-Arab conflict.” In a statement, he called on the US, the EU, Russia and the UN “to undertake the necessary measures to turn the spirit of this resolution into facts” on the ground. The resolution was “a clear message to the Israeli Government of the international community’s rejection of the repression, assassinations, liquidation and destruction practiced” by Israel against the Palestinian people, he said, adding that the priority now should be “to send international forces to monitor the situation in the Palestinian territories and prevent Israel from pursuing its violations of human rights.” (AFP, ITAR-TASS, XINHUA)

Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer had ordered the army to let ambulances operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory through military checkpoints, Israel Army Radio reported. Quoting Deputy Defence Minister Dalia Rabin Pelossof, the radio said the order had been issued “despite proof that the Palestinians sometimes use [ambulances] to carry terrorists and military equipment.” Ms. Rabin Pelossof had made her comments during a meeting with officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the radio added. (AFP)

In a statement published in Ha’aretz, 24 members of the “Palestinian peace coalition” – writers, academics and officials – called on “Israeli intellectuals and public at large” to join in “ending the vicious cycle of violence” between their two peoples, saying: “It is our and your duty to act to shorten the lifespan of this blood-drenched violence and to prevent its claiming of more victims on both sides… The brutal Israeli military campaign against the Palestinians has no other definition other than seeking to perpetuate the longest occupation in the 20th century.” Among the signatories were PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, Bir Zeit University Chairman Hanna Nasser, academic Edward Said, poet Mahmud Darwish, Vice-Minister of Culture and authors Yahya Yakhlef and Izzat Ghazawi. (AFP)

Israeli Tourism Minister Benny Elon’s and National Infrastructures Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s resignations, submitted 48 hours earlier, had taken effect, Israel Radio reported. Their party bloc, the National Union-Yisrael Beitenu, had also quit Prime Minister Sharon’s coalition Government at the same time. The bloc, however, said that it would support from outside the coalition any moves by the Government to “eradicate terror” and achieve “a military victory over the Palestinian Authority.” With the National Union-Yisrael Beitenu holding seven seats in the 120-seat Knesset, the walkout would reduce the coalition to 76 seats, still an absolute majority in the legislative body. (XINHUA)

Ahead of the opening of the annual session of the UN Commission on Human Rights on 18 March, Amnesty International said the Commission should strongly condemn grave violations of human rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and should support a call for an urgent deployment of international observers to the region. (AFP)

Prime Minister Sharon had ordered the IDF to begin a phased withdrawal from Ramallah, Israeli Public Radio reported, adding that the city would remain encircled by Israeli troops once the withdrawal had been carried out. A statement from Mr. Sharon’s office said he had instructed Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer to order the IDF “to redeploy in the Ramallah region upon the successful conclusion” of its operation there. The Prime Minister “expressed the hope that the results of the [IDF’s] activities [would] aid the diplomatic effort to secure a complete ceasefire forthwith,” the statement added. The announcement came just hours before the arrival of US envoy Anthony Zinni in Israel. PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo called the announcement a “trick” and said the Palestinians would consider Ramallah occupied until the last Israeli soldier left. (AFP, EFE, Reuters)

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US expected “a complete withdrawal from Palestinian-controlled areas, including Ramallah and the other areas that the Israeli Defence Forces recently entered,” noting that such a withdrawal “would greatly facilitate” the work of Gen. Zinni. (AFP)

Upon arrival in the Middle East, Gen. Zinni met with Prime Minister Sharon, Foreign Minister Peres and Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer. He presented to them his proposals on how to implement the Tenet ceasefire plan, namely that Israel should first pull out its troops from “Area A,” which he defined as a precondition for the implementation of the ceasefire plan, then a ceasefire would be jointly declared by the two sides. Afterwards, the joint Israeli-Palestinian political committee, established during former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s Administration, would convene and meet in parallel with the joint security committee. After the situation on the ground improved and there was a renewed mechanism for dialogue, Israel and the PA would begin implementing the Tenet ceasefire plan. Gen. Zinni said his mission was to see the plan implemented, and he would remain in the region until such time. (AFP, Ha’aretz, the Jerusalem Post, XINHUA)

Four Palestinians, three members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and a taxi driver, were arrested by the IDF in Balaa, east of Tulkarm, and taken to an unknown location. Israeli helicopters overflew the area and dropped paratroopers who stopped the vehicle. The IDF said in a statement that the men were on their way to carry out an attack in Israel. Explosive materials were discovered during the arrests, and the car, which was loaded with explosives, was blown up, the IDF said, adding that the men had been taken for questioning. Separately, six Palestinians had been wounded by Israeli fire in the region of Abul Ajine, in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources told AFP. The IDF had fired on Palestinians who had gathered near the northern edge of the “Gush Katif” settlement. Two Palestinians were killed when their car exploded on a road east of Ramallah. (AFP, Reuters)

Hundreds of Israeli human rights activists, including author Meir Shalev, one of the most popular in Israel, marched from the Ar-Ram checkpoint north of Jerusalem to the Kalandia checkpoint outside Ramallah, protesting human rights violations by the IDF in Ramallah. (Ha’aretz)

15

The IDF had begun pulling out of Ramallah late the previous day, Israeli military sources told AFP. By the morning, Israel Radio reported that the IDF had left all positions in Ramallah and Qalqilya and had lifted the blockade of the Tulkarm refugee camp. IDF troops had also left the refugee camp of El-Bureij in the Gaza Strip, the radio reported, noting, however, that the IDF had redeployed around the Palestinian cities due to warnings of Palestinian attacks, and that some IDF troops remained in Bethlehem and at points close to Jenin. (AFP, Ha’aretz, the Jerusalem Post)

The IDF had killed two Palestinian policemen in separate incidents near the Rafah and Sufa border crossings in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical sources said. In Rafah, the policeman had been killed during an IDF incursion, and Israel had closed the Rafah terminal until further notice. The IDF had shot and killed a Palestinian and arrested another near the “Elei Sinai” settlement in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported. The radio said that the two appeared to have been on their way to carry out an attack. A mother and four of her children aged between 8 and 15 were killed near the Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip when a bomb exploded, as they passed in a donkey cart. Palestinian medical and security sources said the IDF had left the bomb before pulling out of the area. (AFP, Comtex Scientific Corporation, DPA, the Jerusalem Post, Reuters, XINHUA)

The Russian Foreign Ministry statement “welcome[d] the decision of the Israeli Government to withdraw its troops from the towns and villages of the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” noting that the withdrawal followed pressure from the EU, Russia, the UN and the US. In a telephone conversation with Chairman Arafat, President Putin said it was important “to exploit the present situation to create the conditions for starting talks on a political solution to the Palestinian problem.” Mr. Putin had also telephoned Prime Minister Sharon, Interfax reported, without providing further details. (XINHUA)

In a poll published in Ma’ariv, 60 per cent of respondents said they would approve of withdrawal from some settlements in the event of a peace accord with the Palestinians, while 45 per cent favoured a complete withdrawal from all settlements. 52 per cent opposed a complete pullout. Meanwhile, a majority of Israelis, 54 per cent, were also in favour of “unilateral withdrawal,” without a peace accord, from some of the isolated settlements in the Gaza Strip. The survey also showed that 36 per cent of respondents supported a complete withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territory to the borders of 4 June 1967, while 58 per cent were against. The poll was carried out by the Market Watch Institute using a sample of 590 Israelis; it had a margin of error of 4.5 per cent. (AFP)

16

The European Council issued “The Declaration of Barcelona on the Middle East,” detailing a vision of a peaceful Middle East with a “democratic, viable and independent” Palestine and Israel living in safety and security within its pre-1967 borders. “The use of excessive force cannot be justified. The actions against medical and humanitarian institutions and personnel are absolutely unacceptable,” said the declaration. The EU leaders called on Israel to immediately withdraw its military forces from areas under PA administration; stop extra-judicial executions of Palestinians; lift all closures and restrictions on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; Jewish settlements; and respect international law. They also demanded that “all remaining restrictions on [Chairman Arafat’s] freedom of movement be immediately lifted,” and called for the deployment of foreign observers to monitor any Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire. (DPA)

The Secretary-General issued the following statement:


A Palestinian was shot dead by IDF troops near a Hebron school, while driving his car in an Israeli-controlled section of the city that was under curfew at the time. (DPA)

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, accompanied by other Israeli activists, delivered a large quantity of food to residents of Ramallah. (Arutz 7)

17

A Palestinian gunman opened fire in Kfar Saba, about 3km from Qalqilya, killing one Israeli and wounding 15 others. Fatah issued a statement the next day saying that although the attacker belonged to the organization, he had acted on his own. (Arutz 7, Reuters)

Five IDF tanks entered Bethlehem, following attacks in Kfar Saba and the “French Hill” settlement in East Jerusalem. A member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades was killed in the ensuing firefight. Six IDF tanks moved into the nearby Beit Jalla and four more into Ad-Doha, a village facing the refugee camp of Dheisheh, where clashes had erupted earlier in the day. In a separate incident, the IDF fired at Nablus and the nearby Askar refugee camp, wounding eight Palestinians, including a child, who was in critical condition. Meanwhile, a 12-year-old girl died in Rafah from wounds sustained from IDF fire on 15 March. (AFP, WAFA)

Following the 14 March mine attack on an Israeli tank in the Gaza Strip, the IDF demolished a number of houses along the “Netzarim-Karni” road, damaged by the blast, and informed a number of other residents there that their homes could be slated for demolition in the days ahead. IDF sources were unable to say how many houses were torn down. Israeli settlers in Gaza expressed full support for the IDF demolition policy. A “Gush Katif” spokesman further said that settlers demanded the demolition of 25 homes on the “Kissufim” road. Responding to a petition, submitted by MK Muhammad Barakeh on behalf of 17 families residing in the buildings, the Israeli Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the demolitions that would stay in effect for two weeks. (Arutz 7, Ha’aretz)

18

Following a joint security meeting the previous night, a three-way meeting between Israeli, US and Palestinian security officials took place in a West Jerusalem hotel to discuss ways to implement the Tenet security plan and an Israeli plan for IDF’s withdrawal from Areas “A,” in return for the PA’s commitment to stop the launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel and a cessation of attacks targeting “Gilo” and the “Minharot” tunnel road. Ahead of the meeting, Israel announced the reopening of the Rafah crossing and the Erez Industrial Park. (AFP, Arutz 7, Ha’aretz, MIFTAH)

US Vice-President Cheney arrived in Israel and was met by Gen. Zinni at Ben-Gurion Airport. “Both Israelis and Palestinians deserve a better future,” Mr. Cheney told reporters. He was to meet Prime Minister Sharon and other Israeli officials, and also “set aside time” to meet Palestinian officials. However, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo announced that no Palestinian official would meet Mr. Cheney if he did not meet Chairman Arafat. A Cheney aide said “the door is certainly open” for a meeting with Mr. Arafat, and cautioned that it was not inevitable. (BBC, Ha’aretz, NPR)

West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi said that “Gen. Zinni is carrying Israeli demands in the name of the US, he is standing by the Israelis and his mission will lead to failure.” “Any understanding or agreement that will not call for an end to occupation with a timetable and international guarantees will not stand,” he added. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

IDF paratroops, Border Police, and members of the elite “Dukefat” unit raided Palestinian villages near Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Jenin overnight, arresting seven persons, Israel Radio reported. (Ha’aretz)

Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer told Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee that the IDF would not allow journalists to accompany its operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (Ha’aretz)

19

A 50-year-old Palestinian had been killed near Deir El-Balah in the southern Gaza Strip, when an Israeli tank opened heavy machine-gun fire, Palestinian security sources said. Near the village of Tubas, north-east of Nablus, an Israeli officer was killed and three other soldiers wounded by two Palestinians subsequently were shot dead by Israeli troops. (AFP, DPA, EFE)

“The IDF withdrew during the night from positions it was occupying in the territories situated in ‘Area A’ in the Bethlehem sector and in the north of the Gaza Strip,” an IDF spokesman said in a statement. Palestinian sources insisted Israeli troops were still stationed in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia, with Israeli tanks and jeeps still visible in those areas. Palestinian security officials also said an Israeli tank and jeeps had made a new incursion, moving 600 metres into land under Palestinian control near Beit Lahia. The IDF later said that troops in the northern Gaza Strip were present only in territory under Israeli control. (AFP, DPA)

Speaking after Israel had announced the completion of its pullback from ‘Areas A’ in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Vice-President Cheney and Prime Minister Sharon said Chairman Arafat had to make the next move. Mr. Cheney said an end to bloodshed required Mr. Arafat’s full compliance with the Tenet ceasefire understanding, and he expected “the 100 per cent effort to begin immediately,” with Mr. Arafat making a clear call to Palestinians to end violence and to his security forces to enforce a ceasefire. He offered to meet Mr. Arafat once a ceasefire was in place, saying the meeting could take place as early as the following week, somewhere in the region, once Gen. Zinni determined that Mr. Arafat had complied with the US conditions for such a meeting. For his part, Mr. Sharon said a ceasefire would allow Mr. Arafat to leave the Occupied Palestinian Territory, but suggested that he might not be allowed to return, if he were found to engage in “incitements to violence” or there were “terrorist operations” against Israel in his absence. Chairman Arafat’s adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh welcomed Mr. Cheney’s statement as “a step in the right direction and a start toward correcting the US position,” but said Mr. Sharon’s statement was insufficient and provocative, and called on Mr. Sharon to “stop the aggression and urgently implement Tenet.” (AFP, AP, EFE, Reuters)

Gen. Zinni had met Chairman Arafat in Ramallah, delivering to him a letter from Vice-President Cheney, Palestinian radio reported. Quoting a top Palestinian official, the radio said Mr. Cheney had urged Mr. Arafat to exert 100 per cent effort to bring calm to the region and establish a ceasefire that would allow implementation of the Tenet and Mitchell documents. Mr. Arafat’s adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh said meetings between Messrs. Arafat and Zinni would continue in the coming days to reach an ending of “the Israeli aggression and the army pullout from the Palestinian territories.” PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo welcomed the “positive indications” in Mr. Cheney’s letter. (XINHUA)

Peace Now said 34 new Israeli “settlement sites” had been set up in the West Bank since Mr. Sharon’s election as Prime Minister in February 2001, noting that this jeopardized Israeli security and obstructed US peace efforts, and accused Messrs Sharon and Ben-Eliezer of violating pledges made at the time when the coalition Government was formed. Information gathered through an aerial survey carried out by Peace Now showed that most of the new sites were 700 m or more from existing settlements, and some as far as 2,000 m. Such sites should not be considered as “outposts” but as new settlements, because they had an independent infrastructure and took control of new land, it said in a press release, adding that some 250 buildings had been constructed at these 34 new sites. The survey did not count military or quasi-military sites, or temporary sites set up as memorials to Israeli settlers killed by Palestinian militants. Peace Now believed the Israeli Government could not start applying the Mitchell report recommendations “without controlling the actions of the settlers.” A statement from the Defence Ministry said the Minister’s instructions to the army and the civil administration were to prevent “any illegal activity in the field” and added that checks showed that the sites referred to by Peace Now were not new settlements. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

At an Israeli High Court hearing on six petitions to prevent the demolition of some 40 houses in the Gaza Strip, most of them along the “Kissufim” road and near the “Netzarim” settlement, the IDF submitted an undertaking to give Palestinians whose houses were to be demolished 48-hours notice, so as to allow them to petition the High Court. The IDF’s undertaking would not apply to homes it determined had to be destroyed for operational reasons. Whereas the petitioners withdrew their petitions following the IDF’s declaration, the lawyers representing them complained that the IDF had recently demolished eight homes after petitions had already been submitted to the High Court. (Ha’aretz)

The Red Cross Societies of Sweden and Norway reportedly will donate four new ambulances to the PA to help replace vehicles destroyed by the IDF. Christer Zettergren, head of the Swedish Red Cross, told Swedish public radio that Israel’s destruction of ambulances had dealt a devastating blow to the PA’s ability to take the wounded and sick to hospital. He further said that the International Committee of the Red Cross had repeatedly asked Israel to produce evidence of the alleged Palestinians’ use of ambulances for arms transport but that none had been provided, while the Palestinian Red Crescent had pledged its ambulances were not used to smuggle arms. He noted that several private ambulances not controlled by the Red Crescent were also in use in the region. (Reuters)

A statement carried by WAFA said the Palestinian leadership, meeting in Ramallah under Chairman Arafat, committed itself “to working for a consolidation of the ceasefire and a strict implementation of recommendations made in the Tenet plan and the Mitchell report … according to the established calendar and in spite of Israeli evasiveness,” and were “prepared to resume immediately the negotiations on a final settlement to open the way to applying UN resolution 1397.” The Palestinian leadership hailed the adoption of this resolution by the UN Security Council on 12 March and “thanked” President Bush whose country had taken the initiative. The statement noted that Vice-President Cheney had given “assurances on the continuation of the Zinni mission ... until the application of the Tenet and Mitchell plans that would open the way to application of the UN resolutions on exchanging peace for territory.” (AFP)

The “Quartet” envoys – Andrei Vdovin (Russia), Gen. Zinni (US), Miguel Moratinos (EU) and Terje Rød-Larsen (UN) – met over dinner with Foreign Minister Peres and Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Avi Gil. They reportedly exchanged views on how to advance a ceasefire and resume political negotiations. (Ha’aretz)

20

A suicide bombing on a bus near Umm al-Fahm killed seven passengers, including four IDF soldiers and two Israeli Arabs, and wounded some 30 others, some seriously. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement carried by WAFA, the PA condemned the bombing and called for an end to attacks on civilians inside Israel, “in order to avoid hampering the international efforts and those of General Zinni” and so as “not [to] grant extremists in Israel an excuse for continuing their aggression against [the Palestinian] people.” (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, the Jerusalem Post, Reuters, XINHUA)

US-brokered talks between senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials were expected to go ahead as planned, despite the latest suicide bombing. Israeli Transport Minister Ephraim Sneh said a ceasefire was “imminent” but warned Israel would be forced to take “preventive measures” if attacks against civilians continued. Chairman Arafat’s adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the Palestinian side would present its own “security plan” to the meeting, to be chaired by Gen. Zinni, as the Israeli side had done at the previous meeting. Palestinian officials said Israel had proposed a four-week timetable for implementing all the aspects of the Tenet plan, but that they wanted it concluded in two weeks and coupled with an Israeli commitment to talks on an end to the occupation. (AFP, Reuters)

Gen. Zinni met Chairman Arafat in Ramallah, just hours after the latest suicide bombing. Speaking to reporters after the more than two-hour meeting, Palestinian Council speaker Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) said the encounter had been “very frank.” Gen. Zinni had raised the issue of the attack and had said it would be an obstacle, Mr. Qurei said. Messrs Arafat and Zinni had also discussed the Palestinian perspective on how to implement the Tenet ceasefire plan, he added, and expressed the hope that agreement on a joint implementation plan would be reached. (AFP, DPA)

A three-hour meeting of senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials with Gen. Zinni late in the day in Tel Aviv, at the home of US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer, ended with no agreement on a ceasefire. Israel had demanded that Palestinians give clear answers regarding their efforts to thwart attacks on Israelis and arrest militants, dismantle their organizations and confiscate their weapons, Israel Radio reported. Palestinians, for their part, had demanded the IDF return to positions held prior to September 2000 and remove the roadblocks around Palestinian towns. PA Minister and senior negotiator Saeb Erakat said the meeting had failed, since the Israelis had tried to separate the security issues from the other conditions laid out in the Tenet plan. He added that the sides also differed as to the timeframe necessary to implement the Tenet plan, with Israelis saying four weeks, and Palestinians demanding two weeks and an immediate transition to a freeze on Israeli settlements and to peace talks. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters, XINHUA)

According to Yediot Aharonot, reports by the IDF Intelligence Research Unit had found that recent military operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had proved counter-productive, creating among Palestinians the desire for revenge, rather than ending attacks against Israel. The reports noted that although the army had scored tactical achievements during these operations, such as the discovery of workshops manufacturing Qassam-2 rockets and the arrest of some militants, there had been no real blow against leaders of militant organizations, who had managed to flee and continued their activities, with greater energy, in other locations. The operations had also weakened the PA and seriously damaged the effectiveness of the Palestinian security organizations. (DPA)

A 12-year old Palestinian boy, who had been shot and seriously wounded by Israeli soldiers in Nablus on 16 March, died from his wounds, Palestinian hospital sources said. (AFP)

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

(UN Press Release SG/SM/8169 of 20 March 2002)

The Israeli Supreme Court decided that the State was responsible to pay compensation in two cases where Palestinians had been shot by IDF troops in August 1988, during the first intifada. The two Palestinians, from the village of Tammun, south-east of Nablus, were in a metal workshop when an IDF force approached in a civilian vehicle. They fled through a back door and the soldiers fired at them. One had died from his injuries and the other one had sustained permanent damage to his leg. The panel of judges determined that the incident was a police act rather than an “act of war,” and therefore victims should be compensated. The judges decided that the State was not responsible for all damage caused as a result of an act of war, but that the definition of what was considered an act of war should be decided on an individual basis. The decision, they determined, would be made according to the following criteria: the place where the incident took place; the events preceding the incident; the amount of military force used. The judges also determined that acts of terror might be considered acts of war. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which represented the Palestinian cases in court, argued for a narrow interpretation of “acts of war.” Several other appeals made by Palestinians on the same matter were rejected during the Supreme Court deliberations. The ruling pertained to a series of appeals on District Court decisions dating back to 1992. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

21

A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a busy shopping street in West Jerusalem, killing three Israelis and injuring 86, some seriously. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. The PA in a statement condemned “this operation against Israeli civilians” and said those who had carried it out would be arrested. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel said Palestinian elements were determined not to allow any success in the peace talks. A further meeting of senior security officials planned for later in the day reportedly had been called off, while the Israeli Government was considering the possibility of retaliation for the attack. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters, XINHUA)

Israeli troops arrested some 20 people during incursions in Area “A” villages near Jenin, from where the suicide bomber had come. According to the IDF, “dozens of Palestinians suspected of carrying out terrorist activities were arrested” and the Israeli forces had withdrawn after completing their mission. Several Palestinians had also been arrested in the Ramallah and Hebron areas, Palestinian security sources said. A Force 17 member had been arrested in the village of Tammun, near Nablus. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli soldiers fired at a car driven by PLO Jerusalem official Sari Nusseibeh, near the Kalandia checkpoint, north of Jerusalem. Mr. Nusseibeh, who was returning from Ramallah, where he had attended a meeting of the Palestinian leadership under Chairman Arafat, was not wounded. In a separate incident, witnesses and hospital officials said Israeli troops in a tank had opened fire on the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, critically wounding a four-year-old Palestinian girl in the head. (ITAR-TASS, Reuters)

B’Tselem report said unclear IDF rules of engagement during the intifada had “caused extensive injury [to] Palestinians who were not involved in acts of violence against Israel.” The report, entitled “Trigger Happy,” said live ammunition was at times being used even when there was “no clear and immediate threat to life,” while regulations were “not provided to soldiers in writing and in a straightforward manner.” It also criticized the IDF for a lack of investigations into shootings of Palestinians and said those probes that were carried out were “superficial and usually rely exclusively on soldiers’ versions of the events.” B’Tselem said its report was based on evidence given by Israeli soldiers deployed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and from press reports. IDF spokesman Lt.-Col. Olivier Rafowicz denied the accusations and said Israeli officers made clear that their men understood the rules of engagement. He said there were occasional problems and incidents were duly investigated. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

Yediot Aharonot reported that over the last few years the Israel had paid some NIS260 million (€65 million) in compensation to Palestinian victims of the first intifida, with some 1,100 compensation claims still outstanding. Since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa intifada in late September 2000, 500 Palestinians had filed compensation claims with the Israeli courts. (DPA)

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov called on Israel to allow Chairman Arafat to travel to the Arab Summit in Beirut the following week, and stressed that Israel had to allow Mr. Arafat to return once the Summit was over. They expressed their full support for General Zinni’s efforts to secure a ceasefire. (DPA)

The European Commission said it estimated Israeli damage to EU-financed Palestinian infrastructure at some €19.28 million (US$17 million). This estimate included recent damage to Palestinian schools and clinics in West Bank refugee camps, the Commission said. External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten had told the European Parliament’s budget committee on 19 March that the goal of the damage list conveyed to Israel was not simply one of drawing up a compensation claim or a bill for damages. It was rather to pass the political message to the Israeli authorities that “the wanton destruction of basic infrastructure and facilities is counterproductive, and sets back efforts to improve the economic, social and humanitarian development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It destroys hope, and any prospect of stability and security for both Israel and the Palestinians.” “As long as the destruction continues, we shall continue to convey this message to the Israeli authorities,” Mr. Patten had noted. (AFP)

Secretary of State Powell had telephoned Chairman Arafat after the suicide bombing in West Jerusalem, to demand that he condemn the attack “publicly and personally in the strongest manner in English and in Arabic,” State Department Spokesman Philip Reeker said. He added that Mr. Powell had told Mr. Arafat he should punish the leaders of organizations responsible for recent attacks, making sure those responsible were brought to justice. (AFP)

Chairman Arafat “strongly condemn[ed]” the West Jerusalem attack, saying the PA would take “immediate and necessary measures to stop this kind of attack and arrest those behind them, and we will not waste time doing so.” Later in the day, Mr. Arafat reportedly held a meeting with leaders of nationalist and Islamic factions, who showed “understanding” when he demanded an end to attacks on civilians in Israel. According to a Palestinian official present at the meeting, Chairman Arafat had been very angry at the recent attacks and had said they did not serve the Palestinian cause. (AFP, Reuters)

Israel’s security cabinet, meeting under Prime Minister Sharon after the suicide bombing in West Jerusalem, had opted for “restraint,” in order to give a chance to US ceasefire efforts, Israeli public TV reported. The cabinet reportedly reached this decision with “contained rage,” and warned that such restraint would not apply indefinitely. Mr. Sharon had laid the blame for the continued bloodshed on Chairman Arafat. Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer had earlier met Gen. Zinni and had told him there would “not be a ceasefire only on the part of Israel,” the TV reported. (AFP)

Former US President Jimmy Carter, speaking at a luncheon celebrating the 20th anniversary of his Atlanta-based Carter Center, said peace could not be achieved in the Middle East until Israel agreed in principle to withdraw from lands occupied since 1967, in return for a normalization of relations with Arab States. However, Mr. Carter said, he doubted Prime Minister Sharon had “any desire to see a peace agreement worked out with the Palestinians, which might include a withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the occupied territories.” “The obstacles are the politicians and the political leaders,” Mr. Carter noted. (Reuters)

A bipartisan group of 52 US Senators stated in a letter to President Bush: “Until Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority demonstrate their commitment to end the violence, we would urge that the Vice-President reconsider his offer to meet with Mr. Arafat.” Mr. Cheney said in a taped interview on CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer” and on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he had no immediate plans to return to the Middle East to meet Chairman Arafat. (CNN, Ha’aretz)

22

State Department Spokesman Philip Reeker announced that Secretary Powell had decided to name the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades a “foreign terrorist organization,” imposing travel and financial restrictions on the group and its members. The decision would take effect on 27 March, “after the legally mandated seven-day [Capitol] Hill notification expires,” Mr. Reeker said. Under US law, it would then be illegal to provide funds or “material support” to the group and banks must freeze any funds held in its name. Senior Fatah official Marwan Barghouthi denounced the US ruling, saying the Brigades were “part of the legitimate resistance movement against the occupation and settlers.” (AFP, Reuters)

According to a UN spokesman, the UN had been trying to raise the question of compensation for damages caused to UNRWA-run facilities by Israeli military operations. IDF incursions and the bombing of Gaza City this month would cost some $3.8 million in immediate repairs of damages caused to 22 UNRWA schools, four health clinics, two ambulances and four camp service centres. Repairs were also needed to 141 destroyed refugee shelters and 1,800 shelters that had suffered minor damage. (Reuters, XINHUA)

Gen. Zinni held talks with Chairman Arafat in Ramallah on a possible ceasefire. PA Minister and senior negotiator Saeb Erakat said after the meeting that Israel had attached unacceptable conditions for putting into motion the Tenet plan, stressing that the Palestinian side had expressed its willingness to implement the plan “as it was written and not according to Israeli conditions and dictation.” There was agreement that the two sides should continue their contacts. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli police had detained PA Minister Ziad Abu Ziad in the Ras El-Amud neighbourhood “because he was not authorized to return to Jerusalem,” police spokesman Kofi Zirhan said. The Minister had been released three hours later, after questioning. “They asked me to commit myself in writing to not returning to Jerusalem, but I refused,” Mr. Abu Ziad said, noting that this was not the first time he had been arrested for coming to Jerusalem. “This action is inscribed in Israeli policy to ban Palestinians’ access to the city, even though it is their basic right,” he said, adding that he had gone to Jerusalem to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. (AFP)

The Jerusalem Post reported that US and Saudi experts were meeting in Riyadh ahead of the Arab League Summit in Beirut to work out the details of the Saudi peace initiative. Senior Palestinian officials, including Chairman Arafat’s PLO deputy Mahmoud Abbas and PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Sha’ath, were also in Riyadh to discuss the initiative with the Saudi authorities. (The Jerusalem Post)

A Palestinian shepherd was killed by the IDF near Nablus, hospital officials said, adding that a special Israeli undercover unit had abducted the man. In a separate incident, the IDF had killed a Palestinian resident of Deir el-Balah, Voice of Palestine radio reported, adding that the IDF claimed the man was armed with guns and hand grenades. (AFP)

23

The IDF killed one Palestinian and seriously wounded another in the Brazil neighbourhood of Rafah, and destroyed a factory and three houses during an incursion. Two Palestinians were killed in the Al-Qarara village near the “Kissufim” border crossing, and in the Al-Bureij camp. One Palestinian was killed when an Israeli tank shell hit his house in Khan Yunis near the “Gush Katif” settlements block. Two Palestinians were killed during an attack on the “Dugit” settlement north of Beit Lahya. Another Palestinian died from the wounds sustained the previous day near the Wadi Al-Hareya neighbourhood in Hebron. A 4-year-old Palestinian girl died two days after being shot in the head by Israeli troops outside her home in Rafah. (AFP, Reuters)

24

“[Israeli] incursions were often directed very deliberately against UNRWA installations,” Commissioner-General Peter Hansen told Reuters in an interview. He also said the PA and local committees composed of Palestinian notables residing in UNRWA camps had prevented “irregular” Palestinian gunmen from using UNRWA facilities. (Reuters)

A Palestinian walking along the road near the “Karni” crossing point in the Gaza Strip, had been shot dead by Israeli forces hospital sources said, adding that Palestinian ambulances had not been allowed to retrieve the body. In other incidents, a Palestinian policeman, who had been wounded in a firefight with Israeli forces near Ramallah, had died in Israeli custody, Palestinian security officials said, and the IDF shot dead three Palestinians near the “Netzer Hazani” settlement in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

An Israeli settler from “Neve Tzuf” was killed in an ambush while travelling to the nearby “Ofra” settlement in a bus on the Abud bypass road, near the “Ateret” settlement. Israeli security forces conducted a thorough search of the area for the gunmen, entering a number of Palestinian villages and demolishing Palestinian roadblocks. One Israeli soldier was lightly wounded in an exchange of fire. A Palestinian policeman was killed during the search by the Israeli troops at a Palestinian checkpoint outside of Deir as-Sudan village. Israeli sources said that the man, a resident of the Gaza Strip, was possibly one of the gunmen. Moreover, a settler from “Otniel,” south-west of Hebron, was killed later in the day in an ambush on the Jerusalem bypass road near the “Beit Haggai” settlement. (Arutz 7, Ha’aretz)

A meeting of Israeli and Palestinian security officials chaired by Gen. Zinni concluded without agreement on a ceasefire. (AFP)

25

Four Israeli tanks and a bulldozer moved several hundred metres into Area “A” east of Bethlehem, blocking access to nearby villages and engaging in firefights, Palestinian security officials said. In separate incidents, a Palestinian was injured in an explosion in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, medical officials said, and another was found dead near the “Dotan” settlement west of Jenin. (AFP, Arutz 7)

The Palestinian leadership, meeting under Chairman Arafat in Ramallah, “reject[ed] any link being made between Chairman Arafat’s participation at the [Beirut] Summit and the conditions Israel [was] trying to impose” on the Palestinians. In a statement carried by WAFA, the leadership also said the Israeli Government was “very much mistaken” if it thought that it could derive political gains from the blockade it had imposed on the Palestinian people and from the killing of Palestinians. (AFP, DPA, XINHUA)

President Bush believed that Prime Minister Sharon and the Israeli Government “should give serious consideration” to allowing Chairman Arafat to attend the Arab Summit in Beirut, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, adding that the Saudi peace initiative “deserve[d] to be focused on,” among the ideas for peace to be broached in Beirut, and energies should not be wasted by discussing who would be or would not be in attendance. A Cheney-Arafat meeting was a “different matter” and the US position was different on that, Mr. Fleischer noted. The message had been conveyed in weekend telephone calls to Mr. Sharon by Secretary of State Powell, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, while also reiterating the need for Chairman Arafat to take further steps to end violence against Israelis. Should Mr. Sharon grant Mr. Arafat permission to travel, Mr. Boucher stressed that Mr. Arafat must also be allowed to return from the Arab Summit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AFP, Reuters)

The Israeli security cabinet had reportedly agreed “in principle” to General Zinni’s latest ceasefire proposal, submitted to the parties at their meeting on 24 March and aimed at bridging the disagreements between the sides, but needed clarifications on some of the proposal’s provisions, especially regarding the obligations of the Palestinians. While no official details of General Zinni’s proposal had been released, Ma’ariv said the Israeli side had agreed to a shorter time between starting to implement the Tenet plan and starting political discussions. It said the Palestinians were being asked in return to speed up their crackdown on militants, especially to arrest “ticking bomb” suspects heading off to attacks, confiscate illegal weapons and work more closely with Israeli security. Ma’ariv said the deal would also set out “packages of steps” to be completed within 48 hours before a next “package” would be started. It was also reported that Prime Minister Sharon had proposed a three-stage plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to that, the first stage would be an end to hostilities and terror attacks, followed by an extended interim period, and the final stage would be a full peace agreement and a ceasefire declaration. (AFP, XINHUA)

26

A meeting was held in Jerusalem between General Zinni and a Palestinian delegation to discuss the bridging proposal he had put forward to the parties regarding implementation of the Tenet understandings. The meeting concluded without an agreement on a compromise ceasefire deal, PA Minister and senior negotiator Saeb Erakat said, noting that there were some problems and discussions would continue. Reportedly, the Palestinian side had reservations on three points of the proposal. One was the sequencing of events, namely the Israeli withdrawal to pre-intifada positions and the Palestinian arrest of militants. A second point was that the security talks were not tied to longer-term political discussions. A third point was that the Palestinian performance be assessed after each step, a stipulation Israel was trying to insert as part of a final deal. After the meeting with General Zinni, the Palestinian delegation went to discuss developments with Chairman Arafat in Ramallah. (AFP, XINHUA)

In an interview on Israeli Arab-language television Prime Minister Sharon said conditions were “not ripe” for him to allow Chairman Arafat to go to Beirut, adding that Mr. Arafat must “declare a ceasefire in his language to his people and seek an end to the violence.” Mr. Sharon noted that even if Mr. Arafat were to attend the Arab Summit, he reserved the right to decide if Mr. Arafat could come back, depending on “whether there are any terrorist attacks in his absence.” Asked what his message to the Arab world was on the eve of the Arab Summit, Mr. Sharon said the State of Israel wanted to reach peace and that was the goal he had set for himself. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer said he favoured allowing Chairman Arafat to travel to Beirut for the Arab Summit. “In the interests of Israel and its security, [Mr. Arafat] must be freed so as to avoid giving him the least pretext not to fight against terrorism,” he told Israel Army Radio. He added that Israel should take into consideration international, and above all US, public opinion, since it was indispensable for the continuation of Israel’s policy. Foreign Minister Peres had earlier said in China that if the conditions were met for a ceasefire, he did not see any difficulty for Chairman Arafat going to Beirut. (AFP)

President Mubarak, in an interview published in the Lebanese daily An-Nahar, said he would advise Chairman Arafat not to attend the Arab Summit in Beirut, even if the Israelis allowed him to go. He explained that there was a major risk of the Israelis making it impossible for Mr. Arafat to return once he was out of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “They will be able to use any incident at all to destroy what remains of [official] buildings, and the Palestinian Authority would find itself outside the Palestinian territories,” Mr. Mubarak noted. In case Mr. Arafat could not come, Summit officials made arrangements for him to address the conference by means of a satellite video link, which Mr. Mubarak called a “good solution.” Regarding the Saudi initiative, Mr. Mubarak expressed his support but added that he did not believe that Israel would accept it, especially under Prime Minister Sharon. (AFP, Reuters)

European Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin told a news conference in Brussels that EU leaders had made very clear at their Summit earlier in the month that Chairman Arafat “should be given full freedom to travel to Beirut or anywhere else and without preconditions.” “It’s particularly important on this occasion because ... we regard the Saudi initiative as a very important one, perhaps a unique opportunity to find a way out of the current situation. So we continue to hope that he will be allowed to travel,” Ms. Udwin said. (Reuters)

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said preventing Chairman Arafat from attending the Arab Summit in Beirut was “in no one’s interests, least of all Israel’s, as it would damage the prospects of achieving the outcome we all want.” Mr. Straw noted that the PA must make a “100 per cent effort to tackle Palestinian violence” and said he hoped the Beirut Summit would endorse the Saudi peace initiative. (Reuters)

A PA spokesman said Chairman Arafat had decided “to stay in Palestine with his people to face the Israeli aggression and the siege imposed on them,” rather than go to Beirut for the Arab Summit. He added that Mr. Arafat’s decision was made “in order not to give the Israeli Government the opportunity to impose conditions, obstacles and dictations.” The spokesman thanked “the Arab and international leaders for their efforts to end the siege on Arafat and his people” but said these efforts had unfortunately been “destroyed by the continuation of the Israeli aggression and impossible conditions,” which were “a clear blackmail of the Palestinians and a violation of all the signed agreements.” (AP, AFP, XINHUA)

In interview excerpts published by Yediot Aharonot, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expressed regret over a commitment he had made to President Bush not to harm Chairman Arafat physically and not to banish him from the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He said that perhaps his response was right at the start but at a certain stage in the confrontation it became a “mistake” and then he should have said that he could not stand by his commitment. PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo issued a statement sharply criticizing Mr. Sharon’s comments. (AFP, Reuters)

Two Palestinians died in the outskirts of Jerusalem when their car exploded near a security roadblock during what police said was a thwarted bombing attack. The explosion, less than a kilometre away from the Malkha mall in southwest Jerusalem, occurred after the police chased the suspect vehicle. When the police closed in on the Palestinians, they blew up their car, police said, adding that no police or passers-by were wounded by the blast. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades said one of the men in the car was its member and the other one his driver. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Two members of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), a Turkish man and a Swiss woman, were shot dead, and a second Turk wounded, as they drove near Halhul, north of Hebron. Israeli military sources claimed the TIPH observers had been mistakenly ambushed by Palestinians on a road often used by Jewish settlers, adding that no IDF troops were stationed in the area. A PA spokesman said it was Israeli troops stationed in two buildings north of Hebron that had opened fire at the TIPH car. The Mayor of Hebron also said that it was IDF troops and not Palestinians who had shot at the international observers. (AFP, AP, EFE, Ha’aretz, Reuters, XINHUA)

A just and lasting peace in the Middle East would be possible only through the end to occupation of Arab lands, the realization of the national rights of the Palestinian people and equal and reliable security for all States and peoples of the region, both Arabs and Israel, President Putin said in a message to the Arab Summit in Beirut. (ITAR-TASS)

27

A suicide bombing in Netanya killed 29 Israelis and wounded more than 100, some 20 of them seriously. A Palestinian walked into the Park Hotel during an evening Passover party and detonated an explosive device. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. The Palestinian leadership condemned the bombing in a statement. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters, Washington Post, XINHUA)

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

(UN Press Release SG/SM/8178 of 27 March 2002)

President Bush condemned the suicide bombing in Netanya and called on Chairman Arafat and the PA to “do everything in their power to stop the terrorist killing.” Secretary of State Powell said this was “the time for Chairman Arafat to get on television and get on radio to speak to his people, to tell them they are destroying their own desire and vision for a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel behind secure and recognizable borders.” On Gen. Zinni’s mission Mr. Powell was quoted as saying that he had “made progress” in bringing the two sides closer to starting implementation of the Tenet plan and would “remain engaged,” working “at whatever pace the two sides [were] willing to work at.” Mr. Powell said that his bridging proposal for a ceasefire had been “gaining currency on both sides.” (AFP, DPA, XINHUA)

The IDF shot dead two Palestinian gunmen and wounded two others who tried to infiltrate the Kissufim kibbutz in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip. An army statement said two Israeli soldiers had been wounded in the infiltration attempt for which Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. A Palestinian hospital official said a Palestinian man had been killed and two others injured, one seriously, by a mysterious blast in a refugee camp near Nablus. The dead man was said by residents of the camp to have been a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Meanwhile, five Palestinians, including a 15-year-old boy, were wounded in clashes with the IDF in Gaza. The IDF said it had seized at a checkpoint on the edge of Ramallah, a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance loaded with 16 packages of explosives wired together. Military sources in Jerusalem said the driver was a wanted militant. (AFP, Ha’aretz, EFE, the Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

President Mubarak, in a statement read on national TV, said he expressed his “rejection of Israeli attempts to blackmail the Palestinian people and attempts to put pressure on Palestinian President Arafat to accept concessions in exchange for permission to attend the Summit.” Mr. Mubarak said that was the main reason for his decision not to attend the Summit himself. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, in his speech at the Arab League Summit in Beirut, suggested that the Arab League “put forward a clear and collective Arab project to the Security Council.” He said the project was based on two essential points: normal relations and security for Israel, in return for the complete withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories, the recognition of an independent Palestinian State with its capital East Jerusalem and the return of the [Palestine] refugees.” The Crown Prince also addressed the Israeli people, “to say to them that the use of violence, for more that 50 years, has only resulted in more violence and destruction. The Israeli people are as far as they have ever been from security and peace.” “If Israel accepts real peace we will not hesitate to offer peace to the Israeli people,” he added. (AFP, DPA)

The second session of the Arab League Summit in Beirut reportedly convened without the Palestinian delegation, which had walked out earlier in protest at the failure to broadcast Chairman Arafat’s speech live from Ramallah. Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, who opened the session, said “Lebanon for certain technical reasons and fear that the Israelis might intercept the transmission of President Yasser Arafat’s speech decided not to transmit it.” The speech, broadcast instead live and exclusively by Al-Jazeera, hailed “the far-sighted and courageous initiative that was launched by [Saudi Crown] Prince Abdullah,” and expressed hope that the proposal would be the basis for a joint Arab initiative. Mr. Arafat said that the goal was “to reach a just and lasting peace, a peace of the brave. The world must realise that we are partisans of peace.” Palestinian delegates would return for the second day of the Arab Summit after Lebanon agreed to air Chairman Arafat’s address to the meeting, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri later said. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters, XINHUA)

Addressing the Arab Summit in Beirut, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Arab nations to unite behind the Saudi peace plan. He appealed to Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon to reaffirm the “strategic choice of peace,” saying they had a duty to lead their “peoples back from the brink” or history would judge them harshly. While pointing out the right of the Palestinian people to a State of their own, he also said that the Arab world as a whole had to come to terms, “once and for all,” in public and in private, with the right of Israel to exist in peace and security. (Full text in UN Press Release SG/SM/8177)

French Foreign Ministry spokesman François Rivasseau said it was “deplorable” that Chairman Arafat was not able to attend the Arab Summit in Beirut, adding that an Israeli travel ban against the Palestinian leader must be lifted. The Foreign Ministry reasserted the view of France and of the EU that Chairman Arafat “must have total freedom of movement.” (AFP)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan concerning the attack on TIPH personnel on 26 March:

(UN New Service at http://www.un.org/news)

The Swiss and Norwegian Foreign Ministers demanded that an investigation be carried out jointly by Israel, the PA and the TIPH mission to clarify the circumstances of the deaths of the two TIPH observers on 26 March. (AFP, the Jerusalem Post)

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had spoken by phone with Prime Minister Sharon, urging him to redouble his efforts to achieve a ceasefire, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “The most important thing is to achieve a ceasefire accord as soon as possible and to start to implement the Tenet plan and the recommendations of the Mitchell Commission,” the Ministry said in a statement faxed to AFP. (AFP)

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller announced that Denmark would give €1.07 million (US$936,500) to UNWRA. In a statement, Mr. Møller said the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had deteriorated to the point that half of the Palestinians lived below the poverty line, unemployment was high and health care had worsened. Mr. Møller said it was “essential” to try to help the Palestinians “who want nothing more than peace and calm and the chance of a normal life.” (AFP)

28

Russia condemned the Netanya suicide bombing, as a “barbarous act” that “aimed to torpedo the inter-Arab and international efforts to unblock the regional crisis,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in a statement. Russia called on the Palestinian leadership to take “immediate and firm measures” to contain extremists and on Israel to exercise restraint in its response to the attack, Mr. Yakovenko added. He stressed that fulfilment by the Palestinians and Israelis of the Tenet-Mitchell plan towards achieving a political settlement based on the principles of international law must remain the chief line. The Governments of China and Germany sharply condemned the Netanya attack. (AFP, DPA, ITAR-TASS, XINHUA)

In a statement issued by the UN Information Centre in Beirut on behalf of visiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General repeated his strong condemnation of the Netanya suicide bombing and said he had spoken to both, Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat, urging them to “stay the course and continue the quest for peace” and noting that the essential first step was an immediate ceasefire. (UN Press Release SG/SM/8179 of 28 March 2002)

EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana “unreservedly condemned” the Netanya suicide bombing. In a statement he said he had spoken with Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat and had “emphasized the need for restraint and for bringing the cycle of violence to an end.” Mr. Solana called on Mr. Arafat in particular “to do everything in his power to bring violent elements within the Palestinian movement under control” and appealed to both parties to find the courage to reach a ceasefire. He said the EU stood ready to assist, in whatever form it could, in reopening the prospect of a meaningful negotiation process. (AFP)

Following is a translation of the text of a Saudi-inspired peace plan adopted unanimously by the Arab Summit in Beirut:

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal, interviewed by CNN on the sidelines of the Arab Summit in Beirut, said that Arabs were embracing peace and now it was time for the US to push Israel in that direction. “The United States is the one that supports Israel militarily, economically and politically. It is the only country that can wield influence on Israel,” he said, urging Washington to “talk sense into” Prime Minister Sharon. “It is the actions of Israel that is creating these suicide bombers and it is that violence that has to stop, the demeaning of the Palestinian people has to stop,” Prince Saud noted. (Reuters)

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said “The Saudi initiative, as it was presented by the Summit of the Arab League, represent[ed] a non-starter.” He said Israel could not accept “on the one hand to have negotiations for the creation of a Palestinian State, an independent Palestinian State, and on the other hand have all the Palestinians come into Israel,” as this would mean “the destruction of the State of Israel.” Mr. Nachshon added that, although Israel had not initially rejected the Saudi proposal, it could not discuss it along the lines adopted at the Summit. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Amira Oron was later quoted as saying that Israel welcomed the “very important and interesting initiative” but had to look closely into the details of it. She also said that the horrible suicide bombing in Netanya made it very hard to speak about peace or peace talks at this moment, and first of all “the terrible violence” should be stopped. (AFP, Reuters)

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters the US welcomed the unanimous adoption of the Saudi peace initiative by the Arab League Summit in Beirut. (Reuters)

IDF troops had shot dead a Palestinian near an Israeli settlement south of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources said. In a separate incident, a Palestinian gunman killed four settlers and seriously wounded one in the “Elon Moreh” settlement, east of Nablus, before being shot dead by Israeli soldiers. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. (AFP)

29

A Palestinian stabbed to death two Israelis in the “Netzarim” settlement in the central Gaza Strip and was shot dead by soldiers after he emerged from a hiding place allegedly to attack a third person, the IDF said. The military wing of the Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Martyrs’ Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack. (AFP, Reuters)

A teenage Palestinian blew herself up at the entrance to a Jerusalem supermarket, after a security guard prevented her from entering. Three people, including the bomber, died in the attack and 31 were wounded. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. (AFP, CNN, Ha’aretz)

The IDF stormed Chairman Arafat’s Al-Muqata’a compound in Ramallah, breaching the wall with a bulldozer. Five Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in the assault. More than 500 Palestinian men were detained for identification and questioning, according to the IDF. In the flattened remains of Chairman Arafat’s HQ, Israeli troops were putting up sandbag positions, tents and wire fences, turning the compound into a physical detention centre, a PA official inside the building told AFP, speaking by telephone. (AFP)

Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem, after Palestinian youths had reportedly started throwing rocks at Jewish worshippers assembled at the Wailing Wall below, an Israeli police spokesman said. (AFP)

The spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, issued the following statement:

(UN Press Release SG/SM/8181 of 29 March 2002)

30

In the early hours of the day, in a meeting on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” that followed a four-hour debate the previous night, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1402 (2002), by a vote of 14 in favour, to none against, with Syria not participating in the vote. The resolution called on Israel to withdraw from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah, and urged both parties to move immediately to a meaningful ceasefire. (UN News Service)

31

16 people died and more than 30 people were injured in a suicide bombing at a restaurant in Haifa. Another attack on a paramedic station in the “Efrat” settlement, southeast of Bethlehem, left the attacker dead, one Israeli soldier fatally wounded and three paramedics injured. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

IDF troops and tanks moved into Qalqilya conducting house-to-house searches for suspected militants. Israeli troops also closed in on Bethlehem, entering the villages of Al-Khader and Al-Doha, as well as on Tulkarm and Nablus. IDF spokesman Brig. Ron Kitri told Israel Army Radio that the Israeli offensive was meant to last for a limited period. (AFP, DPA)

Egypt and Jordan had said they would take steps to prevent Israel from deporting Palestinians across their borders, Secretary-General of the Arab League Amre Moussa said, after he notified the Governments of Egypt and Jordan of a message he had received from Chairman Arafat regarding “the intention of the Government of Israel to carry out ethnic cleansing and transfer Palestinian citizens to Egypt and Jordan.” (AFP)

The Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) announced that Ramallah had been declared a “closed military zone” and that no foreign citizens, including those from the media, were allowed to enter the area. GPO Director Danny Seaman also warned that any Palestinian found without the proper permits would face arrest, and press bureaus employing them would face consequences, including a fine of NIS70,000 (about US$15,020). In response, the Foreign Press Association (FPA) issued a statement to protest the Israeli position. The IDF had already taken over the Ramallah offices of foreign news organizations, including Reuters, forcing them out and remaining there despite protests by Reuters and the FPA. (AFP, XINHUA)


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