- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (Agence France-Press) Israel conducted a series of land, sea and air strikes against Palestinian positions yesterday, a day after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon abruptly canceled planned cease-fire talks.
Israel mounted major assaults in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that left three Palestinians dead, despite renewed international efforts to secure the talks between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Mr. Arafat called the attacks an Israeli attempt to "sabotage" the much-anticipated talks with Mr. Peres aimed at ending a year of bloodshed that has claimed hundreds of lives.
"This is intended to sabotage the meeting," Mr. Arafat said after talks in Gaza City with Russian Middle East envoy Andrei Vdovin.
Late Friday, Mr. Sharon called off the talks that had been set for today, saying they would be "inappropriate" after the terrorist attacks that killed thousands of people in the United States.
"The prime minister didn't cancel the meeting. He thinks that it's an inappropriate time if Arafat cannot come through with real measures and steps to stop the violence," a senior Israeli official said, adding that the meeting may be held later.
Overnight, there were incursions into the West Bank town of Ramallah and the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanun, injuring eight Palestinians, one of them seriously, Palestinian security sources said.
There was a third incursion at Qarara, east of the central Gaza Strip Gush Katif settlement bloc, the same sources said.
Early yesterday, two Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers near the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip in circumstances that have yet to be determined.
Yesterday afternoon Israel mounted its simultaneous land, sea and air attacks along the Gaza Strip.
Helicopter gunships destroyed a Palestinian military intelligence headquarters in Gaza City in the north, security sources and witnesses said.
Anti-tank missiles also struck a Palestinian police station at Rafah in the south and shelling from warships destroyed most of a Palestinian naval building at Nusseirat in the center of the territory.
Seven persons were wounded, one seriously, in the triple strike, Palestinian hospital sources said.
The Israeli army confirmed the attacks, saying they were a response to Palestinian mortar attacks, and that the targets had been used as bases for Palestinian "terrorists" preparing anti-Israeli attacks.
In Washington, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Friday it was still important for the Israeli-Palestinian meeting to take place.
"This [Mideast] conflict isn't going away, and I don't think it's going to be solved by continuing conflict between the two sides," he said.
A senior Israeli official said yesterday that the attacks in the United States had put international terror in the spotlight, and would change the conditions for direct cease-fire talks between Mr. Peres and Mr. Arafat.

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