Bush: Palestinians must ''Publicly and Forcefully'' Reject Violence
US President George W. Bush said Thursday the Palestinians must "publicly and forcefully" reject violence, reported AFP.
At his second press conference since taking office January 20, the president said he was "deeply concerned" about escalating violence in the Middle East and said Israel and the Palestinians "must take important steps to calm the situation now."
"The tragic cycle of incitement, provocation and violence has gone on far too long," the US leader told reporters at his second press conference since taking office January 20.
"Our goal is to encourage a series of reciprocal and parallel steps by both sides that will halt the escalation of violence, provide safety and security for civilians on both sides, and restore normalcy to the lives of everyone in the region," said Bush.
The US leader, who has taken a largely hands-off approach to Middle East peace, brushed aside the question of whether he should be more involved and reiterated that "this administration won't try to force peace on the parties."
"We have been fully engaged," he said, indicating he on Thursday instructed US Secretary of State Colin Powell to contact Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as well as other regional leaders to urge them to "stand against violence."
Bush noted his upcoming meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and with Jordan's King Abdullah and said he would "seek their help in defusing the tensions."
ARAFAT: INTIFADA WILL CONTINUE UNTIL INDEPENDENCE
Earlier in the day, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat proclaimed Thursday that the Palestinian uprising will continue until the Palestinian flag flies over Jerusalem, "capital of the future Palestinian state,” reported AFP.
"The Palestinian people will continue with force and determination until the Palestinian flag is raised above the walls, mosques and churches of Jerusalem, the capital of the future Palestinian state, whether (people) like it or not," Arafat said in Ramallah on his return from a two-day Arab summit in Jordan.
He also condemned the Israeli strikes the day before on his Force 17 bodyguard, saying they were "neither the first confrontation, nor the first war nor the first escalation.
"But, I tell you that not the blockade, not the uranium shells, not the other banned weapons, not the bombings of our bases and houses can hinder our people's determination," Arafat said.
He said the "Israeli aggression" was "the beginning of the 100-day Sharon plan.”
He was referring to Palestinian charges that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has mapped out a plan to crack down against the six-month-old Intifada.
ISRAELI TANKS SHELL HEBRON
The Israeli army was Thursday evening firing tank shells and machine guns into the neighborhood of Abu Sneina in Hebron.
Radio Israel claimed that the bombing started after “identifying two armed men entering a house in the neighborhood.
It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.
Israel has ordered the evacuation of the neighborhood after a ten month-old baby girl was killed, reportedly by a Palestinian sniper.
Abu Sneina neighborhood overlooks the Jewish enclave in Hebron where about 400 settlers live. The are has been a stage for bloody confrontations between the Palestinians and the occupation troops.
THREE PALESTINIAN KILLED THURSDAY
A Palestinian youth was killed by Israeli troops in the northern Gaza Strip, the third on Thursday after a policeman from the presidential guards unit, Force 17, was killed overnight and a teenager during clashes in the morning.
Mohammed Salman Abu Shamla, 18, was hit by bullets in the head and the heart when Israeli troops fired live rounds and tear gas on stone-throwing Palestinian youths at the Erez crossing point between the northern Gaza Strip and Israel, said AFP.
Earlier, Mahmud Khaled Abu Shahada, 15, was shot dead with a bullet to the heart during the same clash, that has also left 12 Palestinians injured, one of them seriously.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's security cabinet gave Wednesday night the green light to more attacks against Palestinians, after approving helicopter raids that left two Palestinians killed and more than 60 wounded, reports said.
After meeting late into Wednesday night, the cabinet authorized Sharon and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer to order further action with the approval of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, said Haaretz newspaper.
The three were given the go-ahead to order not only responses to Palestinian attacks but also to individual pre-emptive measures, an Israeli government source told the paper.
The cabinet also, said the source, justified Wednesday's air strikes against posts of Force 17, saying that officials the Palestinian Authority "were found to be intensively involved in terrorism."
Reuters reported that Arafat's home in the Gaza Strip was damaged by the Israel helicopter strike, apparently hit by a copter-fired missile.
Arafat, who had been attending an Arab summit in Jordan, was not in the house at the time of the attack Wednesday night, said the agency.
Reuters television footage showed rooms of the house strewn with shattered glass and debris, walls with broken plaster and a hole in one wall which was apparently hit by a missile.
The bombings were ordered against "precise targets of officials linked to terrorism," Sharon's office said in a statement, quoted by the paper.
Ben Eliezer told Israel's Channel Two television that "the raids are message to Yasser Arafat ... so that he understands that our patience is at its end."
Before the meeting, Ben Eliezer accused the Palestinian Authority of having declared war on Israel, said AFP.
"It's a state of war; the Palestinians are fighting us day and night," Ben Eliezer said.
"Those who believe the government is going to stay with its arms folded are badly mistaken," he said.
In separate remarks before his security cabinet convened, Sharon vowed to crack down on the violence and restore security to Israel.
"Everyone who sees these things that have occurred over the course of 36 hours understands exactly what kind of situation we are in," Sharon told reporters in remarks broadcast on Israeli army radio.
"The situation is clear and this situation will be stopped. Israel's deterrent capacity will return to its fullest," he added.
The radio also quoted Sharon as describing Arafat as "a terrorist leader," according to AFP.
The meeting and military action follow a bomb blast in central Israel near the border with the West Bank that killed two Israelis and the bomber, the day after two attacks in Jerusalem that killed a suicide bomber and left dozens of Israelis injured.
Tayeb Abdel Rahim, secretary of the Palestinian presidency, told AFP the helicopter raids were "an escalation of Israeli aggression."
Following the raids, an Israeli military spokesman said that Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian wearing the uniform of Force 17 who was carrying a Kalashnikov near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip.
"A Palestinian wearing the uniform of Force 17 and armed with a was killed by Israeli soldiers overnight after he opened fire on their position," said the source, quoted by Haaretz – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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