Palestinian crisis cabinet holds last meeting as Israeli forces tighten siege of Nablus, Tulkarem
The Palestinian emergency cabinet led by Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei was meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday afternoon. Qurei had just until midnight to resolve differences with Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, which are blocking confirmation of a new cabinet. "We are working on it," Qurei told reporters about his bid to form a government to replace his small crisis cabinet.
The Palestine National Authority (PNA) on Monday confirmed that the new Palestinian government’s priority was to work out a ceasefire with the Israeli occupation forces as these forces tightened their siege of the northern West Bank cities and refugee camps of Tulkarem and Nablus.
The new government, which is expected to be take office next week “will launch immediately into discussions with the Israelis to obtain a strong and lasting ceasefire,” Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Sha’ath said Monday in Madrid after a four-day meeting with Palestinian ambassadors in Europe, the first of its kind in 10 years.
“The two sides -- Israeli and Palestinian -- must discuss a ceasefire and respect it,” he said.
Qurei last week invited factions to discuss a cease-fire that might lead Israel to ease its reoccupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation army imposed further restrictions on Palestinian population centers on Monday, sealing two refugee camps and banning inter-city travel in much of the West Bank.
Eyewitnesses said the Israeli troops, backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, on Tuesday morning clamped a tight siege on the northern West Bank Balata refugee camp outside Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank.
“They (Israeli troops) are preventing people from entering or leaving the camp,” said Hasan Nufal, a citizen of the camp. “We are now living in a large prison,” Palestine Media Center reported.
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported early Tuesday that the Israeli army dug 6-meter wide and 3-meter deep trenches into the camp’s main street.
Earlier, Israeli tanks and armored vehicles rampaged through the streets of Nablus amid heavy gunfire. (Albawaba.com)