- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2001

In unusually strong language yesterday, the United States demanded "immediate" withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian-controlled areas and reprimanded the Israeli military for killing a large number of civilians over the weekend.
The State Department welcomed as a "positive step" the move of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Sunday to outlaw the military wing of the radical Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), but said it was insufficient.
"Israeli defense forces should be withdrawn immediately from all Palestinian-controlled areas and no further such incursions should be made," State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said at a news briefing.
"We deeply regret and deplore Israel Defense Force actions that have killed numerous Palestinian civilians over the weekend.
"The deaths of those innocent civilians under the circumstances reported in recent days are unacceptable," he said. "We call upon Israel to ensure that its armed forces exercise greater discipline and restraint."
The Israeli army moved into or around six West Bank cities after PFLP members claimed responsibility for the assassination of hard-line Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi on Wednesday.
The Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Nasser Al-Kidwa, called yesterday for an immediate meeting of the U.N. Security Council to demand that Israel withdraw from the Palestinian areas.
But Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, facing domestic pressure for even tougher action, said his troops would not leave until the Palestinians turned over the militants who assassinated Mr. Zeevi.
Thousands of Israeli demonstrators rallied in Jerusalem yesterday to demand that Mr. Arafat be expelled and his Palestinian Authority dismantled. "Never, never, never will there be a Palestinian state here," declared Benny Eilon, a member of Mr. Zeevi's party.
Last week, the State Department said it opposed the Israeli incursions but stopped short of openly calling for a withdrawal. Seeking Arab support for its anti-terrorist coalition and the military campaign in Afghanistan, the Bush administration has been pressed to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Legislators from Israel's center-left Labor Party threatened yesterday to quit Mr. Sharon's coalition government if the army remained in Palestinian-ruled areas.
But Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, the party's most prominent leader, did not attend the meeting in Jerusalem and told reporters in Washington that he had no plans to give up his job.
"We have to continue and work together in the face of the extremely challenging situation as much as we can," Mr. Peres said at the National Press Club. "The government is trying to navigate in a very stormy sea. We are together in the storm. We may be separate in the destinations."
Mr. Peres, who was scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell today, refrained from criticizing Israel's deployment in Palestinian cities. He said Mr. Arafat must arrest "10 or 15 troublemakers" responsible for Mr. Zeevi's death, and make sure the Palestinian police force stops suicide bombers from entering Israel.
At the State Department, Mr. Reeker called on the Palestinian Authority to "do all in its power to halt violence and terror and bring to justice the terrorists whose actions are betraying Palestinian interests."
Mr. Arafat's "decree outlawing such activities is a positive step, but actions are required, not just words," he said. "Failure on the part of the Palestinian Authority to confront terror in a decisive manner is absolutely unacceptable. Retaliatory actions by Israel cannot produce lasting security, which is the goal we so long advocated."
Mr. Peres suggested that the United States impose tighter controls on the finances of two Palestinian Islamist groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as it had done for groups and people associated with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Washington ordered the assets of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations frozen following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad "are not on the priority list right now," Mr. Peres said. "The message is they should be put on the priority list because really this terror has frustrated American efforts for a coalition."
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, speaking in Washington yesterday, said anger at the Israeli occupation gave terrorists a chance to hide behind a legitimate cause.
"The anger in the Middle East, the frustration and despair, emanate chiefly from the major injustice done to the Palestinians and other Arabs and the continued occupation and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
On the ground yesterday, Israeli tanks rumbled deeper into Palestinian towns, setting off street battles for a fifth day.
In Tulkarem, a 65-year-old Palestinian man was killed, Palestinians were quoted by wire reports as saying.
In the Aida refugee camp outside Bethlehem, a heavy gunbattle erupted as tanks rolled in. In Ramallah, tanks fired shells as they moved forward, and were met by Palestinian fire, reports said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide