- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2001

The United States yesterday dismissed Palestinian appeals for U.S. intervention in the Middle East, saying a Palestinian call for international monitors would "not stop the shooting" but simply "put more people in harm's way."
Israel yesterday issued new orders allowing its troops freer use of live ammunition against Palestinian opponents amid new violence that sent the death toll toward 700 people, mostly Arabs, since last September.
The Israeli army said it had eased the rules of engagement as a result of "the increase in Palestinian acts of violence" and out of a "commitment to allow its soldiers to defend themselves when their lives are in danger."
The move reverses an order to limit force against the Palestinians issued after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared a cease-fire on May 22.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States intends to stick to the peace plan put forward by former Sen. George Mitchell, adding there was no plan for any new intervention.
He said there should be an end to the violence first and then an easing of the Israeli blockade of Palestinian towns.
"We don't intend to shelve Mitchell and we don't intend to put forth some other option," Mr. Boucher said. "There's not a Plan B waiting to be presented, as we've said before."
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sent a letter to President Bush and negotiator Nabil Shaath wrote to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a U.S. official confirmed yesterday.
The letters asked the United States "to pressure Israel to stop Israeli crimes against Palestinians" and to "shoulder its responsibilities and allow the deployment of international observers," according to Hassan Abdel Rahman, Palestine Liberation Organization spokes-man.
Mr. Bush and the State Department rejected the requests.
"Once into Mitchell, hopefully sanity will prevail," Mr. Bush said from a Texas golf course. "But we're not even into Mitchell yet and we can't get into Mitchell until violence stops."
A State Department official rejected the letter as simply presenting a list of Palestinian grievances against Israel, rather than any new proposals for solving the conflict.
Placing U.S. or other foreign monitors in the region "just puts more people in harm's way," said a State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Israel says it rejects foreign monitors because it fears that Palestinian guerrillas will open attacks and then hide from Israeli retribution behind the monitors.
Suspected Palestinian gunmen yesterday killed an Israeli Arab near the Jewish settlement of Tzofim and the army sealed off the nearby Palestinian-ruled city of Qalqilya to pursue the killers, reports said.
A Jewish settler was killed by Palestinian gunfire last night on a road in the northern West Bank, near the settlement of Tapuach, south of the Palestinian city of Nablus.
In Amman, Jordan, an Israeli businessman was found shot dead in his villa and a group called "Nobles of Jordan" claimed responsibility in a statement to a Beirut television station.
Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip opened fire at stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators near Rafah and wounded four of them while two explosive devices were detonated against Israeli troops in the West Bank.
Many diplomats and analysts have complained that the United States — widely seen as the only player powerful and neutral enough to mediate between the two sides — has remained aloof, sending mid-level officials to urge an end to violence but not pressuring the sides to move toward peace.
"Obviously, the longer this goes on, the more difficult it gets," Mr. Boucher acknowledged yesterday. "Clearly, there have been moments when things were much quieter than they are now."
Mr. Boucher rejected recent reports that the State Department last week proposed, in an interagency meeting, pushing Israel and the Palestinians to immediately act on some of the Mitchell plan details.
The reports said the State Department initiative was opposed by other Bush administration officials, who want to keep the United States out of the conflict until the two sides are ready to end it.


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