- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2002

RAMALLAH, West Bank Thousands of Palestinians marched yesterday in support of Yasser Arafat, who remained under virtual house arrest for a third day behind a line of Israeli tanks.
Twelve Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were wounded yesterday in a gun battle that broke out after a tank, one of many deployed to pressure Mr. Arafat, got stuck on a narrow road in Ramallah.
The shooting occurred as a bulldozer was trying to free the tank, the Israeli army said. The clash took place well away from Mr. Arafat's office.
Also in Ramallah, several hundred Palestinian journalists and academics who support Mr. Arafat's Fatah movement marched to the Palestinian broadcasting center destroyed in an Israeli explosion a day earlier.
"Defend the Palestinian territories and defend our President Arafat," said a Fatah leaflet distributed by the marchers.
In Gaza City, several thousand supporters, most of them Fatah members, marched to Mr. Arafat's seaside compound, though the Palestinian Authority leader hasn't been able to work there in nearly two months.
After firing his automatic rifle into the air, Ali Abu Mustafa, one of the supporters, said Mr. Arafat "is a symbol of our dignity and we are not going to keep silent when we feel we have been humiliated by [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and his government."
The Israelis have not let Mr. Arafat out of his government compound since the beginning of December, saying he must take tougher action against militants and arrest the killers of Israeli Cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi.
The Israelis tightened their grip Friday, placing tanks and armored personnel carriers just outside the gates of Mr. Arafat's Ramallah office. Palestinian protesters threw stones at the Israeli troops Friday and Saturday.
Several Israeli newspapers speculated on whether Mr. Arafat might resign or flee the Palestinian territories, but Arafat spokesman Nabil Aburdeneh dismissed the reports.
"The Israeli government is living with illusions, and are trying to transfer these illusions to the Palestinian people," Mr. Aburdeneh said. "The Israelis are using psychological warfare against the Palestinians by putting Arafat under such a humiliating siege."
After nearly a month of relative calm, the past week has seen a renewal of the retaliatory violence that has marked the conflict, now almost 16 months old.
"To my regret, we are experiencing renewed escalation in the conflict," Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said after a Cabinet meeting. "There has been a clear increase in the scale and gravity of terrorist incidents."
After meeting Saturday night with members of Italy's Parliament, Mr. Arafat said, "I call on the international community to make an immediate move to rescue the situation before it explodes."
In Syria, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said yesterday it had decided to resume attacks on Israelis. Since the Palestinian uprising began in September 2000, the DFLP has been responsible for a handful of shooting attacks on Israeli targets.
In the latest Israeli move against the Palestinians, troops set off an explosion Saturday that gutted the official Palestinian broadcasting building in Ramallah.
Israel said the action was in response to a Palestinian shooting attack on Thursday that killed six Israelis at a girl's coming-of-age party.
Employees from the Voice of Palestine radio and Palestinian television moved into other offices and returned to the airwaves after only a few hours.

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