- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 12, 2003

From combined dispatches
RAMALLAH, West Bank Yasser Arafat's Cabinet urged Palestinian militants yesterday to stop attacking Israeli civilians ahead of an Israeli election. Hours later, Israeli tanks raided Gaza Strip in a "counterterrorism operation" that killed at least one Palestinian.
Palestinian security sources and witnesses said dozens of tanks rumbled into Khan Younis late yesterday and with helicopters pounded central neighborhoods with heavy machine-gun fire. An Israeli army spokesman said there had been exchanges of fire with Palestinian militants but declined to elaborate.
"Attacks against Israeli civilians have severely harmed our cause in the international arena and in Israeli public opinion," the Palestinian Cabinet said in a statement rejecting "all acts of violence that target Palestinian and Israeli civilians."
The statement, released late Friday, was a rare reference to Israel's Jan. 28 elections. It called on Palestinians "to show their restraint and not to allow themselves to be dragged along by the Israeli elections and [Israeli] provocation."
As in the past, the statement did not define "civilians." Mr. Arafat and others have often condemned suicide attacks in Israel, but they rarely speak out against attacks against Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians consider the settlers trespassers on land they claim for a state.
Israeli official Dore Gold rejected the statement. "What Israel needs is a cease-fire and a cessation of violence full stop," he said. "A halt to violence cannot be limited geographically or within a certain period of time."
In past years, upsurges of Palestinian violence have benefited hard-line Israeli parties such as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud. Mr. Sharon, once favored to win re-election easily, has seen his party's lead evaporate in the wake of scandals over purported election corruption.
Mr. Arafat has repeatedly called on militants to halt suicide bombings and other attacks on Israeli civilians in a 27-month-old Palestinian uprising for a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But Palestinian factions have not agreed on a truce.
Earlier yesterday a 20-year-old Palestinian was fatally shot, and six were wounded by Israeli troops responding to a stone-throwing crowd at a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian hospital officials said. The army said troops had fired at a man about to throw a gasoline bomb at them.
In Gaza, a 17-year-old Palestinian belonging to the militant Islamic Jihad group was killed yesterday, apparently while assembling a grenade, Palestinian witnesses and hospital officials said.

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