- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 20, 2002

RAMALLAH, West Bank Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat yesterday appealed for urgent international intervention as Israel tightened its fist around Palestinian areas in response to renewed violence.
"The current situation is very dangerous," Mr. Arafat told journalists at his Ramallah compound. "I call on the international community to make an immediate move to rescue the situation before it explodes."
Israeli tanks have surrounded Mr. Arafat's compound since Israeli troops lit up the night sky with a powerful explosion that wrecked the official Palestinian broadcasting building, dealing another blow to Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
Witnesses in a village north of the West Bank city of Tulkarm said tanks entered the village last night, but the Israeli army denied the report, Reuters news agency said. An army official said the tank movement was related to maneuvers carried out as part of Israel's encirclement of five West Bank areas.
Tanks from an Israeli military base entered Iktaba village and around 70 appeared to be moving nearby, witnesses said.
The reported incursion follows an Israeli army raid Friday into Tulkarm in retaliation for a Palestinian shooting rampage Thursday night in the northern Israeli city of Hadera that killed six persons at a girl's coming-of-age celebration.
Officials said Israel targeted the Palestinian media center because it was the source of what the Israelis described as incitement throughout the Mideast conflict. The Palestinians called the demolition part of an ongoing Israeli attempt to undermine their leadership.
Israel last week bore down on Palestinian towns and cities, including Tulkarm, in response to a new wave of violence.
Mr. Arafat met at his besieged compound with foreign visitors who included Italian lawmakers and the outgoing archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans.
Archbishop Carey urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
"Religious leaders have a part to play in this," he told reporters. "Religion is not only part of the answer, but also part of the problem."
Only hours after the Israeli operation at the broadcasting building in Ramallah in the West Bank, Palestinian broadcasting returned to the air. The Voice of Palestine operated out of several local radio stations in Ramallah while Palestine Television used alternative facilities here and in the Gaza Strip.
A few miles from the ruined building, Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli troops who had taken up positions outside Mr. Arafat's headquarters. Demonstrators threw stones at Israeli vehicles, including armored personnel carriers and tanks that had moved near the edge of the compound a day earlier.
Israeli troops responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. Palestinian hospital officials said 22 persons were injured, 10 from rubber bullets and 12 from breathing tear gas. One youth, shot in the head with a rubber bullet, was in critical condition.
The Israeli military and Palestinians also reported sporadic exchanges of live fire between the two sides, but there were no reports of casualties.
Before dawn yesterday, about a dozen Israeli tanks surrounded the hilltop broadcasting building and Israeli soldiers entered the five-story complex.
Palestinian Broadcasting Corp. chief Radwan Abu Ayyash said Israeli soldiers called over loudspeakers for the few remaining employees to evacuate the building.
A few hours later, a huge controlled blast went off inside. Flames engulfed the top floor and quickly spread to lower floors. By the time the fire was extinguished, the interior was gutted and the exterior blackened.
Shattered glass, a satellite dish and other debris littered the parking lot in front of the building.
The Israeli army said in a statement that it had confiscated equipment before blowing up the building. Employees said a transmitter and editing equipment were taken.
"The Palestinian television and radio station has been for a long time a center of incitement against the state of Israel, its citizens and against the Jewish people," Israeli government spokesman Arie Mekel said.
But Mr. Abu Ayyash rejected the Israeli accusation.
"This is not a [Osama] bin Laden training center, it is not a center for heroin or drug rackets, this is something cultural, civilian and human," Mr. Abu Ayyash said.
Employees of the Voice of Palestine moved into the offices of the private local stations in Ramallah, including the Amwaj station. They resumed broadcasting a few hours later on an FM frequency, rather than the usual AM bandwidth.
Mr. Abu Ayyash said two previous Israeli strikes against broadcasting offices forced his organization to make alternative arrangements.
Yesterday's operation destroyed the building that housed the corporation's archives and radio and television studios. Mr. Abu Ayyash estimated the damage at millions of dollars.
After nearly a month of relative calm, the past week saw a renewal of the retaliatory violence that has marked the recent conflict, now almost 16 months old.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia linked to Mr. Arafat's Fatah movement, said Thursday's attack against the Israelis was in retaliation for the death of its leader, Raed Karmi, killed in an explosion last Monday that was blamed on Israel.
Mr. Arafat's seven-week confinement in Ramallah has him in a quandary. He is under pressure from the United States and Israel to dismantle militant groups, but such crackdowns are running into resistance from some Palestinians.
Israel has said Mr. Arafat can leave Ramallah only once the accused killers of an Israeli Cabinet minister have been handed over to Israel. Palestinian police say they have arrested the head of the PLO faction that claimed responsibility for the October assassination.
Since announcing a truce Dec. 16, Mr. Arafat's security forces have arrested some militants, triggering clashes with the suspects' supporters. Israel has said the arrests were merely cosmetic and that the detained militants often were not being held.

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