Israeli raid in Rafah: 23 Palestinians injured, buildings destroyed; Burns arrives for talks
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said early Wednesday that Israeli forces knocked down several empty buildings in Rafah, next to the Egyptian border. Later, Israeli forces blew up the house of an activist killed in a clash last February, after evacuating his family. Palestinian sources said at least 23 Palestinians were injured in this incident.
Israeli police, meanwhile, announced that 15 people, believed to include two suicide bombers, were killed in Monday bus attack, lowering the death toll from the 16 reported earlier. Following genetic examinations, the remains of 15 bodies were found at the scene, a police official told AFP. "If it is confirmed that the attack was carried out by two Palestinian kamikazes, the death toll on the Israeli side will be 13 and not 14," the official said.
On Wednesday, US special envoy William Burns was due to arrive in Israel to discuss a new "roadmap" to solve the Israeli Palestinian conflicts. Israel said the bus bombing was aimed at disrupting any chance of success for Burns' regional tour to present the plan, backed also by the United Nations and European Union, for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip within three years.
Ahead of Burns's visit, Israel insisted no progress could be reached as long as Yasser Arafat stayed in power. "Before we can embark on any roadmap there must be an absolute end to terror and violence, and this is contingent on a change in the Palestinian leadership," said Zalman Shoval, Sharon's foreign policy advisor. Burns will not meet Arafat, in line with US demands that he be replaced.
The US envoy made a stop on Tuesday in Damascus. After meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Farouq el-Shareh, Burns told reporters that he held "open and fruitful talks" with them.
He said that he conveyed to them US President George W. Bush's vision on Palestinian statehood and the US efforts to establish comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of the Madrid Peace Conference, the land-for-peace principle and relevant UN resolutions, as well as the Arab peace initiative.
He urged all parties concerned to "meet their obligations to alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinian people and bring about peace and prosperity to the region." "Violence and terrorism must stop. Both the Palestinians and Israelis must meet their obligations," he pointed out.
On the Quartet efforts, the US envoy said "We and our partners in the committee work towards ending the occupation, establishing a Palestinian state along side Israel and ensuring coexistence and security between the two states."
Asked about the guarantees for Israel's cessation of violence if the Palestinians cease fire, Burns said "We believe that all parties must stop violence." The US envoy revealed that President Bush, during his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Washington recently, expressed his concerns about the killing of Palestinian civilians and asked Sharon to ease the sufferings of the Palestinian people. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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