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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 December 2000
D i v i s i o n f o r P a l e s t i n i a n R i g h t s

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

December 2000


Israel Radio reported that Washington expressed reservations regarding Prime Minister Barak’s new plan for a “phased peace agreement” with the Palestinians, saying that the US preferred a final settlement dealing with all the major issues like the final borders, future of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements and the fate of the Palestinian refugees. (XINHUA)

UNICEF spokeswoman Lynn Geldof said in Geneva that 310 people had been killed in the clashes between Israelis and Palestinians, including 97 children aged 18 or under, all of whom were Palestinian. Of the 310 deaths, 261 were Palestinian, 35 Israeli Jews, 13 Israeli Arabs and one German. She added that 9,802 Palestinians had been injured in the violence from the end of September until 30 November, of which an estimated 4,116 were children. 426 Israelis had been hurt, 184 of them adult civilians and four children. The figures were based on information provided by the Palestinian Red Cross, the Palestinian non-governmental organization “Defence for Children” and United Nations agencies. UNICEF and the Palestinian authorities had agreed to set up a programme for monitoring the impact of the two-month crisis in the region on children, Ms. Geldof said. (AFP, DPA)

Israel allowed the Gaza international airport to reopen, although to a limited capacity, after its most recent closure on 8 November, the chairman of the Palestinian Airport Authority, Fayez Zeidan, said. (AFP, Reuters)

The United Nations General Assembly took action on the four draft resolutions considered under agenda item “Question of Palestine”. The draft on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was adopted as resolution 55/52 with 106 votes in favour, two against (Israel, United States) and 48 abstentions; the draft on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat was adopted as resolution 55/53 with 107 votes in favour, two against (Israel, United States) and 48 abstentions; the draft on the Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat was adopted as resolution 55/54 with 151 votes in favour, two against (Israel, United States) and two abstentions (Marshall Islands, Micronesia); and the draft on the Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine was adopted as resolution 55/55 with 149 votes in favour, two against (Israel, United States) and three abstentions (Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru).

In a statement issued following its meeting in Gaza under Mr. Arafat’s chairmanship, the Palestinian Authority Cabinet said the only way to end the confrontation with Israel would be the implementation of United Nations resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), “which would enable the Palestinian people to gain their independence”. It called upon the Fact-Finding Committee to start acting in the area as soon as possible “in order to reveal to the whole world how awful the Israeli crimes are against our people” and urged the Arab and Islamic countries to send much-needed support, as promised at the Cairo and Doha summits. (DPA)


Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami released a statement saying that “Israel favours the activity of the Fact-Finding Committee and will assist in its work. Israel does not fear the work of the Committee and certainly not its conclusions”. (Reuters)

Arab Foreign Ministers met in Cairo to discuss the ongoing tension in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the implementation of the resolutions adopted by the Arab Summit in October. Speaking after the meeting, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa said the Ministers had reviewed the developments in the Arab world in support of the Palestinians since their last meeting in November in Doha, on the sidelines of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Summit. (XINHUA)


Israel opened a new road for Jewish settlers connecting the Karni crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip with the “Netzarim” settlement. To open the four-kilometre road, which goes through Palestinian-run areas, the Israeli army bulldozed Palestinian houses, fruit trees and farm land, as well as water wells and infrastructure, without the permission of the Palestinian Authority. “What Israel did is a re-occupation and we consider this action a breach of the agreements”, said Saeb Al-Ajez, chief of the Palestinian National Security Service in the Gaza City area. Ha’aretz quoted Israeli military sources as saying that the road was “a response to an urgent security need”, “one of several unilateral moves by the IDF in its attempts to provide greater security for the settlers”. (AFP)

Peace Now said the number of Jewish homes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had increased by 52 per cent since the 1993 Oslo accords, when Israel implicitly agreed to freeze settlements. On the basis of figures by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, Peace Now said a total of 32,750 new housing units had been built fron September 1993 to July 2000, 2,830 of them during Prime Minister Barak’s tenure, that is since July 1999. The pacifist group maintained that the majority of Israelis were in favour of dismantling the settlements. “We want to convince the settlers that the [settlement] project is a failure and that they should come back to Israel proper with all the compensation and necessary arrangements”, said Aviram Goldblum, head of the Peace Now Settlement Watch team. (AFP)

Donor countries meeting in New York pledged US$38.5 million for the 2001 regular budget of UNRWA. According to the Agency’s Commissioner-General, Peter Hansen, providing the more than 3.8 million Palestine refugees with services of an acceptable quality and on a consistent basis had become ever more difficult, as resources had not kept pace with growing needs. Many of UNRWA’s schools now used a double shift system to cope with a classroom shortage; medical staff were under great strain, as doctors treated more than 100 patients a day; and the Agency’s social workers struggled to cope with a growing case load. The growth of UNRWA’s resource base was inadequate and needed to be raised by at least 5 per cent per annum to keep up with the increase in the refugee population. For the year 2001, total requirements were US$311 million, which should be fully funded if the Agency was to safeguard its vital services from damaging reductions and continue to reinstate services affected by austerity measures adopted in past years. The UN General Assembly President, Harri Holkeri, said that, “in the absence of an agreed solution to the refugee issue, the commitment by the international community to the Palestine refugees must not be forgotten". (M2 Communications, XINHUA)


In a report on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen said that the Palestinian economy had lost some US$500 million during the first 60 days of the violence and that unemployment was now running at 40 per cent. Some 260,000 Palestinians had lost their jobs, while a total of one million, about a third of the population, had suffered a “serious income loss”. Mr. Larsen voiced particular concern over the rise in poverty rates, which he said the United Nations estimated would reach 32 per cent by the end of 2000, up from less than 20 per cent in September. Almost half the Palestinians were now living on less than US$2.10 a day, he added, noting that “three years of [economic] progress have been wiped out in two months of conflict” and described the Israeli blockade that caused this as “counter-productive”, because “unemployment and poverty lead directly to anger and aggression”. In a separate statement to the press, Mr. Larsen urged Israel and the Palestinians to restart the peace talks and make the painful compromises required in order to avert the danger of a regional war. (AFP, Reuters)


Israel Radio reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and US National Security Adviser Sandy Berger had agreed on ground rules for the international Fact-Finding Committee, namely that the investigation would focus largely on the reasons that led to the eruption of the violence and not on the IDF’s “excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians” as expected by the Palestinians. (XINHUA)

PA Minister for Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath announced that the Fact-Finding Committee would arrive in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on 11 December to start its work. He said the Palestinians would fully cooperate with the Committee, the mandate of which, according to him, was three-fold: to find the reasons behind the eruption of violence, to prevent more violence in the future between the two sides and to protect the Palestinian people. In statements upon his return from Egypt, where he had met President Mubarak, Chairman Arafat said the Committee “should have come earlier to see [Israel’s] blatant violations of the signed deals, its aggressions against our people… and its military, economic and supply ban on our people” and stressed the need for finding means reliable enough to secure international protection for the Palestinian people according to relevant UN resolutions. (DPA, XINHUA)

The US has urged Israel to ease economic restrictions on Palestinians, which have been imposed because of security concerns. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said they cannot be productive and only lead to great hardship for the Palestinian people. He added that a solution to end the violence would not be found through military, economic or political pressure, but rather by returning to the peace negotiating table. (Reuters)

Issa Qaraqa, president of the Bethlehem-based NGO “Palestinian Prisoners Club”, said in a statement that, since the beginning of the intifadah, the Israeli army had arrested at least 500 Palestinians, half of whom were children under 18. The majority of arrests had taken place in Palestinian areas under Israeli control, at army checkpoints or during special military operations, Mr. Qaraqa said. (AFP)

The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – B’Tselem stated in a 50-page report that Israel used excessive and disproportionate force in dispersing demonstrations of unarmed Palestinians. At least 73 of the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops were minors aged 17 or lower, while “most of those killed and wounded in recent weeks did not carry weapons”. B’Tselem termed Israel’s closure policy a “collective punishment”, which had made the life of the Palestinians “unbearable”, and called on the Fact-Finding Committee to begin work immediately to determine the cause of and responsibility for the current violence. (AFP, DPA, XINHUA)

The World Bank Board of Directors approved an emergency grant of US$12 million to the Palestinian Authority for an Emergency Response Programme designed to help offset the effects of the economic crisis caused by the closures, which had resulted in approximately 125,000 Palestinians previously working in Israel (nearly 20 per cent of the labour force) being unable to go to work. The Programme aimed to alleviate hardship for thousands of families through the provision of temporary employment for unskilled and semi-skilled laborers and was intended to serve as a catalyst for other donors to participate through parallel or joint contributions for further activities. The jobs to be created would include labour intensive projects that could be carried out using locally supplied materials and the implementing agencies involved would include the PA Ministries of Local Government and Labour, the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR), the municipalities, village councils and Palestinian NGOs. (DPA, M2 Communications)

The League of Arab States called on Israel to pay millions of dollars in compensation for losses to the Palestinian economy. Addressing an Arab League conference in Cairo, Palestinian Ambassador Mohammed Sobieh estimated the damage inflicted by violence and by the closure of Palestinian cities at US$700 million. More than 300 businesses in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been closed down and 63 per cent of working-age Palestinians were unemployed, he said. (DPA)

The Director-General of Israel’s Finance Ministry, Avi Ben-Bassat, said an Israeli-Palestinian free trade pact based on set borders could best serve future relations between the two sides, while severing economic ties would hurt both. (Reuters)


Chairman Arafat made a plea for peace when he met in Gaza a group of Israelis, who had lost relatives in the Middle East violence. The spokesman for the Israeli group called “Grieving Families in Favour of Peace”, Yitzhak Frankental, appealed for Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak to sit down together and make peace. The Israeli group later met with Palestinians whose relatives or friends had been killed by Israeli soldiers. (AFP)

According to Palestinian security officials, Israel ordered closed the industrial zone near the Erez crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Israel, following an incident that left one Palestinian dead and two Israelis injured. It was the first time since the eruption of violence last September that Israel has shut this particular zone, which was under full Israeli control and employed about 5,000 Palestinian workers. (AFP)

The Israeli police announced that only Jerusalem residents and Muslims with Israeli citizenship would be allowed to enter the Al-Aqsa compound for the Friday prayers the following day, although the Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami had earlier called for the restrictions to be lifted due to the relative calm of last Friday’s services. (AFP)


In a new report focusing on the torture of children and published ahead of Human Rights Day (10 December), Amnesty International said that children were entangled in the web of the current Middle East violence, which had resulted in the killing of at least 90 Palestinian children and the injuring of hundreds of Palestinian as well as some Israeli children. It also said that Palestinian children had often been arrested late at night or early in the morning and interrogated soon after they reached the police station; some were handcuffed following arrest and during interrogation, reportedly beaten by police officers, intimidated and subjected to extreme psychological pressure. (M2 Communications)

Israeli troops killed five Palestinians, including at least three policemen, in an attack using heavy armour near Jenin. Palestinians said Israeli forces had fired anti-tank missiles in what they called an unprovoked attack. IDF said a tank had fired shells at a group of men carrying weapons and acting suspiciously in an Israeli-controlled area. The Palestinian Governor of Jenin, Zuheir Manasra, said the Israelis had fired at a Palestinian National Security Force base in an area of the city under full Palestinian Authority control. In total, more than eight people, including two Israeli settlers, were killed in renewed violence coinciding with the anniversary of the start of the 1987-1993 Palestinian intifadah. The total death toll since late September well exceeded 300, the vast majority of the victims being Palestinian. (AFP, Reuters)

The UN Security Council was presented with a modified version of the draft resolution earlier submitted by the Non-Aligned Movement, which incorporated some of the amendments suggested by the UK and France. The draft would establish a United Nations force of military and police observers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as demanded by the Palestinians, but would not mention its precise strength and would request the UN Secretary-General “to consult both sides on the composition, modalities of deployment and functioning” of the proposed Force. (AFP, Reuters)

EU leaders holding a summit at Nice issued an appeal for Middle East peace talks and renewed offers to help a resumption of negotiations. They called for a personal commitment by Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat and for both sides to respect the pledges made at Sharm el-Sheikh and Gaza. Concrete gestures must be made, the EU statement said, including a renunciation of violence and an end to Jewish settlement expansion. The EU supported the prompt start of the Fact-Finding Committee’s work and the establishment of an observer mission to help calm the violence. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)


Chairman Arafat told reporters that Prime Minister Barak’s resignation meant that peace negotiations would be put on hold until the end of the election, a further delay caused by the Israeli side. He added that understandings reached at Sharm el-Sheikh and during a meeting with Shimon Peres had not been honoured by Mr. Barak. (AFP)


The Fact-Finding Committee led by former US Senator George Mitchell embarked on its first visit to the region and held meetings with Prime Minister Barak in Jerusalem and Chairman Arafat in Gaza City. (AFP, Reuters)

UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said the Agency was not getting the trust and support deserved from Israel and was facing “a very, very serious situation of deprivation in everyday supplies such as nourishment, medicine, building materials to repair refugee shelters destroyed by the shelling, and artificial limbs”, adding that food stocks were all but depleted. UNRWA was “anticipating a crisis” unless restrictions such as lengthy security checks and steep financial charges were lifted immediately, in accordance with Israel’s “humanitarian and legal obligations”. (AFP)

Norway pledged US$10 million towards financing electricity supply in villages in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. PA Housing Minister and Electricity Authority Head Abdel Rahman Hamad, who signed the agreement with Norway’s representative to the PA Geir Pedersen in the presence of Chairman Arafat, said Norway had pledged a total of US$60 million in five separate agreements to bring electricity to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AFP)

Turkey announced it had allocated US$3 million in humanitarian aid to help Palestinians meet their urgent needs. (AFP)

The head of the PLO Political Department Farouk Kaddoumi told reporters in Damascus that the Palestinian delegation to the Arab Summit follow-up committee that met there had asked for an urgent cash advance for the suffering Palestinian people. An Arab diplomat also attending this second meeting of the committee said the Palestinians were asking for US$100 million. However, the Islamic Development Bank had announced on 10 December that it had that far received only US$31.5 million of the promised US$1 billion. (AFP)

Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man in Nablus and a 13-year-old boy died in Hebron from head wounds it had suffered on 8 December. The total death toll stood at some 320. (AFP, Reuters)

Some 13,000 new Jewish settlers had moved into the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the first nine months of 2000, according to figures published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Many of the newcomers had gone to the settlements of “Modiin Elit” and “Beitar” in the West Bank. (AFP)

The UN Security Council decided during consultations to put off a decision on the dispatch of observers to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in view of the intense diplomatic activity under way in the region. The Permanent Representative of Namibia to the UN, Martin Andjaba, who had introduced the modified draft resolution on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement on 8 December, declared his readiness to “postpone action and start working on a text to come up with consensus language”. The postponement was welcomed by the US representative on the Council, Ambassador Nancy Soderberg. (AFP, Reuters)


The Fact-Finding Committee met with President Mubarak and King Abdullah II, in Cairo and Amman respectively. After the meeting with President Mubarak, Committee Head George Mitchell said the Committee’s goal was not to blame anybody but rather to determine what caused the eruption of violence and try to prevent it from happening again. Mr. Mitchell rejected speculation that the Committee would base its findings solely on written reports by the Israelis and the Palestinians and added that it hoped to obtain information from various sources, although it had not yet decided on how to deal with other evidence like interviews. Committee member Javier Solana said that associates of the five Committee members would be on the ground, through a field structure allowing for a continuous presence. (AFP, DPA)

Israeli troops shot dead a Fatah activist in front of his home in a village south of Bethlehem. Yousef Ahmed Abu Sway had his body riddled with 17 heavy-calibre bullets, according to Palestinian sources. On 11 December Israeli soldiers had shot dead an Islamic Jihad activist, Anwar Ahmed Himran, in Nablus. (AFP, Reuters)

The Moroccan Government announced that it would contribute US$5 million in aid to unemployed Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AFP)


Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami told Israel Army Radio that Israel had made a mistake by imposing economic restrictions, including closures, on the Palestinians and noted that Israel was relaxing the restrictions every day and should be “far more generous” in this matter. (XINHUA)

Five Palestinians were killed and many more were wounded in what were reportedly some of the fiercest clashes in weeks. Four of the dead were policemen, killed when Israeli tanks fired anti-tank missiles and heavy-calibre ammunition at the Palestinian police station and homes in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The fifth, a member of Hamas killed in Hebron, was the latest target of a series of IDF attacks on Palestinian activists. The deaths brought the number of people killed in nearly 11 weeks of violence, most of them Palestinians, to 327, according to AFP. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Chairman Arafat met King Mohammed VI of Morocco and US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross in Rabat. According to his spokesman Marwan Kanafani, Chairman Arafat informed Mr. Ross of the serious situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and of the fact that “Jewish settlements had become a danger to the Palestinian people”. Mr. Kanafani said that no real progress had been made during the Arafat – Ross talks but Mr. Ross called the talks “very useful”. Prior to his departure from Morocco, Chairman Arafat called for the application of resolutions adopted in the recent Arab and Islamic summits in support of the Palestinian intifadah. He said that, thus far, the Palestinian Authority had received only US$61 million of the US$1 billion it had been promised at the Arab Summit in Cairo in late October. (AFP)

The EU Commission said it was setting up a new 90 million euro (about US$80 million) cash facility to ease financial pressures on the Palestinians in case Israel did not resume a transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority. (DPA)


French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine, representing the French Presidency of the European Union and accompanied by EU Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos, started his contacts in the region by meeting President Mubarak in Cairo. After the meeting, Mr. Védrine stated that every effort should be made for the Sharm el-Sheikh commitments to be implemented by the parties without preconditions; he welcomed the arrival in the region of the Fact-Finding Committee; and said the EU would do its utmost to bring the parties back to the negotiating table. Mr. Védrine also said that the contacts between Israelis and Palestinians had resumed “in one way or another” and should turn again into “real negotiations” focusing on “real issues”. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

Hani Abu Baqr, a Hamas activist, was killed when the taxi minibus he was driving came under fire from Israeli soldiers on a road near the “Gush Katif” settlement block in the southern Gaza Strip. His death brought to 328 the total number of people killed since 28 September, most of them Palestinians. (AFP)


An estimated 1,250 Palestinians, living in the Gaza Strip, returned to work in Israel via the Erez border crossing, following the easing of a three-month Israeli ban. To qualify, a Palestinian had to meet the Israeli criteria of being at least 35 years old, married, with at least one child. (AFP, XINHUA)

Five Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. (DPA, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)


Two Palestinian secondary school students were wounded when a group of settlers opened fire on their school bus in the West Bank town of Huwara. (AFP)

“No one has the right to surrender rights concerning Jerusalem,” President Mubarak told a joint session of the People's Assembly and the Shura Council. “The Palestinian leadership is not free to decide upon it because the matter concerns all Muslim and Christian peoples.” (Reuters)

The UN Security Council failed to adopt a draft resolution aimed at establishing a United Nations force of military and police observers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Eight countries voted in favour of the draft (Bangladesh, China, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mali, Namibia, Tunisia and Ukraine), while seven abstained (Argentina, Canada, France, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States). The draft was not adopted as it failed to obtain the required nine votes in favour. Israel's Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Liel said the decision was one of Israel's biggest diplomatic victories at the UN in almost two decades. The Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN Nasser Al-Kidwa said the Council had shown itself incapable of taking, or not quite ready to take, even a minimum measure to establish an observer force, with a view to providing protection for Palestinian civilians, in spite of the horrific human losses. (DPA, Reuters, UN Press Release SC/6976)


France said that the proposal made by the non-aligned countries at the Security Council to send UN observers to the Palestinian territories was premature but could be applied in future. French Foreign Ministry spokesman François Rivasseau said the idea was still "alive." (XINHUA)

Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, called in his annual Christmas message for an end to nearly 12 weeks of violence between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. He also called on Israel to lift its closure of Palestinian-ruled areas so Muslims and Christians could have easy access to places of worship during holy days this month. (Reuters)

The PA said it rejected any permanent settlement of 3.7 million Palestine refugees in their respective asylum countries. “We reject any proposition which does not provide a fair solution to the problem of the refugees, and we reject the implantation policy", said Chairman Arafat's adviser, Nabil Abu Rudeineh. “Any future settlement should include all final status issues, especially Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees", Mr. Rudeineh added. (AFP)

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were to resume separate talks with US officials at the Bolling Air Force Base. The Palestinian team included senior negotiator Saeb Erekat, PA Culture and Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo and Gaza Strip security chief Mohammed Dahlan. Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami headed the Israeli delegation. Initially, both sides were expected to hold parallel bilateral discussions with US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross or his deputy, Aaron Miller, possibly followed by Israeli-Palestinian or three-way meetings including the US mediators. The meetings were expected to end by the night of 21 December or the morning of 22 December, when the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah began. US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright would follow the discussions closely and might meet the negotiators. (AFP)

The UN named three human rights experts to a commission of enquiry due to probe months of violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. These were: John Dugard, a South African, who teaches at Leiden University in the Netherlands; Richard Falk, a professor of international law at Princeton University; and Kamal Hussein, a former Foreign Minister of Bangladesh. The experts were expected to report to the UN Commission on Human Rights at its annual six-week session opening in Geneva on 19 March. (Reuters)


Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed their talks with US officials at the Bolling Air Force Base. President Clinton was to meet them in Washington, as he wanted to “take stock, see where they are and decide whether there is anything we can do to be helpful to move the process forward," White House spokesman Jake Siewert said. (AFP, EFE via COMTEX)

According to Mr. Yasser Abed Rabbo, PA Information Minister, the Palestinian side was seeking international guarantees through the UN Security Council, as part of any peace agreement with Israel. Mr. Abed Rabbo, a member of the Palestinian delegation in Washington for the peace negotiations, said the Palestinians would not accept an agreement without such guarantees. "Any agreement without such a mechanism will have no effect and its signature will be a historic crime," he said. (AFP)

Israel said it was preparing a report to the Mitchell Committee that would hold the Palestinians responsible for violence and present the Jewish State as the victim. "The paper must make the Palestinians responsibility for the outbreak of the violence unequivocally clear," said Roni Milo, appointed by Prime Minister Barak to liaise with the Committee. "In light of the Palestinians planned propaganda campaign, Israel must make it clear to the entire world by means of the report ... that Israel is the side under attack and that all of its actions are designed to protect itself, its citizens and its soldiers," he said in a statement. (AFP)

Israeli forces killed three Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, two from the Palestinian Civil Defence and a 10-year-old boy. Israeli soldiers opened fire at a Palestinian fire-fighting vehicle heading to Gaza City from the southern Gaza Strip, killing assistant officer Nedal Abu Aoun, 28, and Lieutenant Refaat Faisel Abu Marzouk, 35, according to Palestinian witnesses and medical sources. The medical sources said that 10-year-old Hani El-Sufi was killed by shell splinters from Israeli soldiers while he was playing with two friends in front of his home in the refugee camp in Rafah. Also, a seven-month-old baby boy was injured when another shell fell on his family's house. The sources said that at least 25 Palestinians had been injured in another clash with Israeli soldiers in Rafah, with two in serious condition. (Reuters, XINHUA)

Iran would send some 30 tonnes of medical supplies and other humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, according to the IRNA news agency. The shipment would be the fourth of its kind since the beginning of the intifadah last September. Iran was also providing medical care for 14 Palestinians between the ages of 12 and 20, who were wounded in the intifadah. (AFP)


According to Yediot Aharonot, during a meeting at the White House with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, on 20 December, President Clinton presented a plan for a final-status agreement, which he had formulated on the basis of the Camp David understandings and subsequent talks. He set 10 January as the target date for completion of the negotiations, after which Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat would be invited to Washington to sign the agreement. The paper reported the details of the plan, as presented to the parties: 1. The territorial settlement: Palestinians should acknowledge that they could not get 100 per cent of the territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. At the same time, the Palestinians would not settle for only 90 per cent, so it would be necessary to reach a compromise between 90 per cent and 100 per cent. 2. As for Jerusalem, the guiding principle was that any area populated by Arabs would be handed over to the Palestinian State, and any area populated by Jews would remain under Israeli sovereignty. This meant a division of Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians. 3. The Old City of Jerusalem: President Clinton refrained from talking about the issue of sovereignty over the Temple Mount compound. He preferred to include the issue under the headline "what used to belong to the Arabs will be handed over to the responsibility of the Palestinian State." According to him, "each party must recognize the other party's affiliation to the holy sites in the Old City. A proper division must be found, in which the national, emotional, historic and ethnic interests of each side must be respected." 4. Refugees: The parties should reach a compromise, through a mechanism that would be set up to enable a settlement of the refugee problem in a practical manner. The Palestinians on their part would sign they had no further claims from Israel. 5. Security arrangements: A final-status agreement should guarantee Israel's legitimate security concerns after it would hand over most of the territories it was currently holding to Palestinian sovereignty. 6. An end to the conflict: The final-status agreement would state that its signing meant that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was over. The implication was that the agreement would declare an end to the Palestinian demands. (Yediot Aharonot)

According to Israel Radio, Israel's army had adopted a new tactic for quelling the Palestinian uprising – tracking down and killing Palestinian militants, often with sniper fire. Quoting a senior Israeli army officer, the report appeared to confirm what Palestinian leaders call a policy of assassination, in which they say at least 19 activists had been killed. The Radio said the officer had denied the Palestinian characterisation of the actions, calling the killings attempts to “thwart” plans and efforts by militants to carry out attacks on Israelis. It quoted him as saying political activists had never been targeted. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinian in the Gaza Strip. Rashid Barhoun, 26, a member of Hamas, was killed in a gun battle with Israeli soldiers in the Rafah district. Ahed Iyada Maresh, 18, died after he was hit in the chest by a large-calibre machine-gun bullet while walking near the crossing point. (AFP, Reuters)

The Bethlehem municipality had cancelled the Christmas festivities in the town, Israel Radio reported. The municipality said there was no point in holding celebrations since most of the foreign groups supposed to attend had cancelled. (The Jerusalem Post-Internet Edition)


Chairman Arafat said the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams in Washington were close to reaching an agreement, but nothing concrete had been achieved yet, reported Israel Radio. Following a meeting with Germany's Defence Minister, Chairman Arafat said he hoped the talks would lead to an agreement, but at this stage the final outcome of the negotiations had not been determined. Yasser Abed Rabbo, Head of the Palestinian negotiating team, told Al-Ayyam that the talks were mired in a crisis, and no progress had been made on any issue. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, XINHUA)

Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Israeli police after Friday prayers in East Jerusalem. Hundreds of young men barred from the prayers threw stones at Israeli security forces. About 30,000 Muslim faithful had gathered at the Al-Aqsa Mosque at Al-Haram al-Sharif for the last prayers of the Ramadan. Israeli Jerusalem District Police had restricted access to East Jerusalem Palestinians aged 35 years or older for the Friday prayers. Entrance to Al-Haram al-Sharif was also permitted to some 1,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, aged 45 and above. At least one Palestinian was hurt and 13 were arrested by the Israeli undercover policemen. (AP, DPA, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, The Jerusalem Post-Internet Edition)

Violence erupted across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A Palestinian farm worker was also killed during a gunfight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians at the “Netzarim” settlement in the Gaza Strip. Hospital officials in Gaza City identified the dead farm worker as Sallama Eish al-Sawarka, 52. The Israeli army also killed a Palestinian teenager during clashes near the village of Siir in the vicinity of Hebron. Medical officials said Arafat Mishael, 17, died in hospital after Israeli soldiers shot him in the head with a live round on a road used by Jewish settlers near Hebron. The witnesses identified Mishael as the nephew of Abbas Zaki, a Palestinian lawmaker and a senior Fatah official. In the West Bank, the IDF said a Palestinian was shot and killed by soldiers when he tried to stab an Israeli near the settlement of “Beit Haggai”, south of Hebron. (AFP, BBC, Reuters)

Israeli and Palestinian ambulance services had agreed to increase their cooperation to help victims of the violence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The agreement was announced in Geneva after talks between representatives of the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the Israeli Magen David Adom or Red Star of David. The talks were hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross. A statement by the ICRC said the two organisations had agreed on practical steps to improve access to and to ensure the freedom of movement for all medical services. (BBC)


Israeli and Palestinian negotiators failed to overcome their differences on Jerusalem and other issues. At a half-hour meeting in the White House, President Clinton offered ideas on how to bridge the differences between the two sides. He said he expected replies by mid-week. Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami skirted the details of their differences, and the White House did not disclose the specifics of the suggestions President Clinton had made to them. White House spokesman P.J. Crowley described them as “not an American plan” but rather “some suggestions to the parties based on what we heard from them” at the Camp David Summit last July and since then. The two delegations also met for 45 minutes with US mediator Dennis Ross, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and White House Chief of Staff John Podesta. (AP, Reuters)


Ha’aretz reported that after five days of Israeli-Palestinian talks, Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat were to respond by 27 December to “an outline of principles” proposed by President Clinton. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)

An Israeli organization, The Centre for the Defence of the Individual, and five Palestinian residents of Hebron petitioned the High Court of Justice, to order the IDF to lift the curfew over the Palestinian section of the city under its control – at least for the duration of Id al-Fitr. The petitioners also asked the court to order the IDF to implement a similar curfew on Jewish settlers living in Hebron. The petition filed by attorneys Eliyahu Abram and Yossi Wolfson, claimed that the curfew had paralyzed the lives of 30,000 Palestinians living under IDF control in the Hebron area for the last two and a half months. According to the petitioners, the curfew has disrupted every aspect of their lives including education, health care and employment. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)


Pope John Paul celebrated a solemn Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter's Square early in the day, and said the troubles in the Holy Land had left him deeply worried about the destiny of the entire Middle East. (AP, BBC, Reuters)

Clashes continued in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, though no casualties were reported. There were gun battles near Nablus and elsewhere in the West Bank. Fighting also erupted in the Gaza Strip after an explosion near a Jewish settler bus. (BBC)

Israeli Deputy Defence Minister, Ephraim Sneh, said the Prime Minister had decided to allocate NIS 100 million (some US$25 million) to build a 74 km alarmed fence, concrete blocks to stop cars and security outposts along the Green Line. Mr. Sneh said that the fence, walls, iron barriers and dirt mounds would be built to prevent “terrorists and thieves from entering Israel”. He also said the barrier did not necessarily delineate the boundaries of a future Palestinian State. The fence would stretch from the moshav of “Mei Ami” in the Wadi Ara region down to Latrun, on the Jerusalem - Tel Aviv highway. Work had already begun near “Beit Hefer”. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, The Jerusalem Post-Internet Edition)

Yediot Aharonot found Israelis split over the merits of the proposals put forward by President Clinton. The poll it published said 48 per cent of the 501 Israelis questioned were opposed to the proposals and just 43 per cent in favour. The poll indicated that 60 per cent of Israelis surveyed would support Israel's ceding control of the Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem to the Palestinians, including most of the walled Old City. However, it said 57 per cent would object to Palestinian control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. 72 per cent of those surveyed were against even a limited return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. The poll had a margin of error of 4.5 per cent. (AFP, AP)


Ha’aretz reported that Israel had agreed to transfer to the Palestinians all the evacuated settlements in their entirety, in the framework of the suggested permanent agreement. According to a plan drafted by the World Bank, the settlers' homes, fields and public buildings would be sold to PA residents. The houses of the Palestinian citizens who would move to the settlements would be given to refugees, mainly refugees coming from Lebanon. More than 50,000 settlers, living in 9,000 housing units, would have to be evicted. The money Israel would be credited with in return for the property that would remain on the land (including roads and infrastructure) would be considered, in part, as Israel's contribution to the International Committee for Rehabilitating Refugees, headed by Sweden's Prime Minister. The rest of the money would be used to compensate the evacuated settlers, but only those who had left their homes intact. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition)


The Palestinian side presented US Deputy Consul General Gerry Feierstein a letter questioning some elements of the US outline of ideas. In it, the Palestinians sought details about planned land transfers, opposed a proposed Israeli-controlled corridor that would cut the West Bank in half and asked for control of archaeological sites that lie underneath Al-Aqsa. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

The EU’s financing institution – the European Investment Bank – announced it was putting up 13 million euro (US$12 million) to help finance start-ups by Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The bank said “local conditions” would determine when the money would actually be loaned to private businesses. “It is hoped that a return to more peaceful conditions in the region will allow for a rapid take-up of the facility,” it said in a statement. The bank said it was advancing the funds to the Cairo-Amman Bank, based in Jordan but with an extensive branch network in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Of the total, 10 million euros would be provided in the form of long-term loans, and the rest to partially finance equity or quasi-equity investments by small- and medium-sized enterprises. (AP)


The Israeli Government voted 10-2 early on 28 December to accept the US peace proposals as a basis for further negotiations, but with reservations and on condition the Palestinians accepted them as well. Israel Radio reported that Israeli officials would relay to the US their reservations on the plan in the next few days. The radio quoted ``senior diplomatic officials'' as saying that Israel objected to the clause in the US proposals granting the Palestinians sovereignty over the Al-Haram al-Sharif compound and wanted a different solution. Israel also wanted territorial continuity between the Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus and the City of David and between the three settlement blocks in the West Bank, the radio said. Several ministers had objected to Israel recognizing any Palestinian sovereignty over the Al-Haram al-Sharif compound, and one of them, Health Minister Roni Milo, would resign from the government over the issue, Israel Army Radio reported. Similarly, Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg told Israel Radio that he opposed Israel abdicating all sovereignty over the compound, which he described as the central Israeli “religious and national symbol”. (DPA)

A Summit scheduled to take place in Sharm el-Sheikh with the participation of Prime Minister Barak, Chairman Arafat and President Mubarak was cancelled. Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Mussa blamed the cancellation largely on the differences over the latest US proposals for a peace deal. Chairman Arafat still travelled to Cairo for talks with President Mubarak, who had earlier spoken by telephone with Prime Minister Barak. A statement from Mr. Barak’s Office said he would reassess a trip to Egypt following the Mubarak-Arafat meeting, but made no mention of new diplomatic moves. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri repeated Lebanon's refusal to grant Palestinian refugees citizenship as a result of any peace deal reached between Israel and the Palestinians. He said that “all the communities in Lebanon have remained steadfast against (a permanent) settlement” of Palestine refugees there and claimed that the Lebanese position was well understood by the US, France and other European and Middle Eastern countries. (AFP)

Prime Minister Barak ordered IDF to cordon off the West Bank and Gaza Strip after two Israelis were killed by a bomb on the Israel-Gaza border and several people were injured by a bomb explosion in a bus in Tel Aviv. (Reuters)

President Clinton warned in Washington that more deadly violence was likely as the two sides struggled with the Middle East peace process but noted that the violence of the past three months was the “best argument for going ahead and finishing this thing”. He said the talks had progressed “much closer” to reaching an agreement than they were at Camp David last July. (DPA)

The US announced an emergency contribution of US$33 million to provide food and shelter to refugees in Africa, Asia and Europe through the United Nations and other international organizations. US$8.8 million of that money was earmarked for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said. (AFP, DPA)


A Gallup poll published in Maariv found that 56 per cent of Israelis would oppose a peace agreement reached on the basis of the recent US proposals before the forthcoming Israeli election. The poll questioned 597 Israeli adults in a representative sample and quoted a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points. (AFP, AP, DPA)

A member of the Palestinian security services was killed and two more were injured by an Israeli tank shell fired at the Palestinian security post near the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. This latest death brought to 359 the number of people killed in the clashes since September 28, more than 300 of them Palestinians. (AFP)


Thabet Thabet, a Fatah official and Director-General of the PA Health Ministry, was killed by Israeli troops in Tulkarm. Binyamin Zeev Kahane, son of the late founder of the extremist Kach movement Rabbi Meir Kahane, was killed with his wife when their car came under automatic weapon fire near the “Ofra” settlement, close to Ramallah. These three deaths brought the total number of people killed since 28 September to 362, most of them Palestinians. (AFP, EFE)

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