Gun battle erupts in Arafat offices

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 31 Mar 2002 09:38:28 +0100

 Yasser Arafat at his offices on Saturday with visiting aid workers and
Arafat says he will never surrender

A fierce gun battle has broken out inside the besieged headquarters of
Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, in the West Bank town of Ramallah. 

Israeli soldiers have been exchanging fire with Mr Arafat's bodyguards
after occupying rooms immediately adjacent to his office. 


I have one choice: to be one of the Palestinian martyrs 

Yasser Arafat 
A Palestinian television reporter on the scene said a number of Mr
Arafat's bodyguards had been wounded. 

The BBC's Barbara Plett, reporting from Ramallah, says machine-gun fire
can be heard as fighting rages in the dining room on the ground floor of
Mr Arafat's office block. 

"It's not clear what triggered the fighting, but the situation is very
tense," she says. 

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has repeated on Israeli radio that
the attack is not directed at Mr Arafat himself. 

The Palestinian leader earlier issued a defiant statement, telling the
American Fox television network that he would never surrender. 

"They (the Israelis) have declared it many times: 'We want Arafat dead
or a prisoner, or to kick him outside of Palestine.' And I have told
them I have one choice: to be one of the Palestinian martyrs." Mr Arafat
said in a telephone interview. 

As the gun battle raged, Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed
Rabbo said: "There are very serious clashes and the president's guards
are fighting against the invaders." 

Ambulance drivers were reported to be negotiating with Israeli troops
over the removal of the casualties. 

The compound is surrounded by tanks, and supplies of water and
electricity were for a time cut off. 

Mass arrests 

Elsewhere in Ramallah, the Palestinians reported mass arrests, as the
Israelis used loudspeakers to summon all males between 16 and 50 for

UN resolution 

Calls for Israeli withdrawal from Ramallah and other West Bank cities 
Calls for immediate moves towards ceasefire 
Approved by 14 votes to 0 
Proposed by Norway 
Vote backed by US, boycotted by Syria 
Saturday saw a Palestinian suicide bomber blow himself up in Tel Aviv,
injuring at least 29 people. 

US President George W Bush has spoken of his deep concern at the loss of
innocent lives. 

He again said Mr Arafat could do more to end the violence, but also
urged the Israelis to make sure there was still a path to peace. 

The European Union has demanded the immediate implementation of a United
Nations resolution urging Israel to withdraw from all West Bank cities
and calling on both sides to move immediately towards a ceasefire. 

 Protest in Bahrain
Anti-Israeli anger has spilled over in many Arab cities

Israel has criticised the resolution, saying it will not pull out of

The Tel Aviv suicide attacker struck at a coffee shop in an area packed
with young people at the end of the Jewish sabbath. 

The attack was claimed by the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militant
faction linked to Mr Arafat's Fatah organisation. 

The faction said that two other men shot dead at the village of Baka
al-Garbiyeh on the Israeli border were attempting a suicide mission into

 Injured man is evacuated from scene of Tel Aviv bomb attack
President Bush says the Palestinians must stop suicide bombings

Israeli border police lost one of their own officers in the gun battle
that erupted after they stopped the two men's car. 

The Israeli bullets reportedly detonated an explosives belt worn by one
of the two which blew him up along with the vehicle. 

Arab citizens across the Middle East have demonstrated in their
thousands against the Israeli military action in the West Bank, with
angry protests reported in Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Jordan,
Bahrain, Syria and Kuwait.



Source: BBC online

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