- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2002

From combined dispatches

JERUSALEM Israel threatened yesterday to begin a "crushing offensive" and impose an indefinite reoccupation of Palestinian areas unless suicide bombing and shooting attacks against Israelis stopped.

Israeli troops have poured into several Palestinian towns and cities in recent days, and as of last night remained in at least six places in the West Bank, where strict curfews were in force.

The army also said yesterday that it would call up a reserve brigade today to boost regular troops fighting a "war against terror."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government has endorsed a plan to gradually reoccupy Palestinian land until suicide bombings and shootings stop. The endorsement came after a bloody week that left 33 Israelis and 18 Palestinians dead, leading President Bush to put off an address that was to outline his proposal for moving toward a Palestinian state.

Amos Yaron, director general of the Defense Ministry, suggested that the operation could be even larger in scale than the six-week sweep through the West Bank that ended in May.

"This terrorism cannot be allowed to continue. Our response has to be crushing and decisive," Mr. Yaron said in an interview on Israel radio. "We have to take much more massive action than we have up until now.

"If what we have done was not enough, so we'll do it with even more force," he said. "If we have to stay in the territories for more time, we'll do it for more time."

During the earlier campaign, the Israeli forces killed or arrested scores of suspected Palestinian militants, shattered Palestinian infrastructure and kept Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat imprisoned in his battered office headquarters for more than a month.

Yesterday, in two refugee camps on the edge of Nablus, Israeli fire wounded five Palestinians who were out during a temporary lifting of the curfew, Palestinians said. The army said the curfew was not lifted in Nablus and that it fired tear gas and rubber bullets at Palestinians who attacked soldiers with rocks and live fire.

Other West Bank towns occupied by Israeli troops were mostly quiet yesterday.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces shot dead four Palestinians, including a man who had thrown grenades at soldiers, Reuters news agency reported.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer expressed regret over a tank shooting Friday in Jenin that left four Palestinians dead, three of them children, ages 6 to 12.

Jenin residents rushed to the market Friday to replenish supplies amid rumors that the 3-day-old military curfew had been temporarily lifted. When troops searching the area for an explosives laboratory spotted a group of Palestinians heading toward them in violation of the curfew, a tank fired two shells to deter them, the army said.

Jenin was calm yesterday, with Israeli tanks withdrawing from an area near a high school so students could take final exams.

Besides in Nablus and Jenin, Israeli soldiers continued operations in Bethlehem and the area of Betounia near Ramallah, reoccupied after the Jerusalem bombings, and also kept a presence encircling Qalqiliya and Tulkarm.

In Bethlehem, shopkeepers swung open their doors, and vegetable vendors lined the streets while the army curfew was lifted for three hours. Shoppers jammed the city's dusty streets to stock up on supplies. The army usually lifts the curfew for a few hours every third day.

Near Nablus on Friday, a group of Israeli settlers went on a rampage as they returned from the funerals of a mother and her three sons killed in a Palestinian attack on the Itamar settlement.

After the funerals, the settlers drove toward the village of Hawara, and killed a Palestinian man and torched a home and a car, Palestinian villagers said.

Israeli police arrested a 27-year-old Jewish settler in connection with the shooting death, police said yesterday.

European Union leaders gathered in Spain yesterday called for the early convening of an international Middle East peace conference in a declaration that omitted mention of Mr. Arafat.

The EU leaders said the goal should be an end to Israeli military occupation of Arab land and the early establishment of a democratic Palestinian state based on pre-1967 war borders, with minor adjustments if necessary.

An EU diplomat cautioned against reading too much into the omission of Mr. Arafat's name but said there had been a debate on whether to mention the Palestinian leader.

U.S. administration sources said Mr. Bush had been expected in his planned speech to stipulate the swift creation of a Palestinian state with permanent borders in three years.

They said he would insist that Israel halt raids into Palestinian areas and suspend settlement building, while Mr. Arafat would have to reform his Palestinian Authority and security services.

Mr. Arafat was attacked yesterday by a radical Palestinian group angered by a report that he now accepts an earlier U.S. peace plan relinquishing the right of refugee return.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said Mr. Arafat's comments, quoted in an Israeli newspaper, that he would accept the plan rejected 18 months ago was "political concession of the utmost danger" to national interests and rights.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide