Palestinians: Israel Preparing 'Military Solution'
Palestinian leaders on Friday accused Israel of neglecting a peaceful solution to the situation on the West Bank and the Gaza strip in favor of a "military solution."
In a statement issued after a meeting at Gaza City, the Palestinian leadership said: "The Israeli government has started preparing politically and militarily for a confrontation and a military solution."
Israel had "sent military reinforcements to the Palestinian territories and armed Jewish settlers," which suggested that Israel had a hidden agenda, said the statement.
It added that "the Israeli government had made its decision after shirking from the application of accords (with the Palestinians) and negating all efforts to ensure the success of the peace process."
The statement, cited by the official Palestinian WAFA news agency, called on the international community, and in particular the United States and Russia, co-sponsors of the Middle East peace process, to "assume their responsibilities in regard of the Israeli threats."
According to WAFA, Palestinian president Yasser Arafat addressed the meeting, saying that "rather than honoring its commitments, notably the third withdrawal, the freeing of prisoners and the opening of a (new) special passage (between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), the Israeli side has begun to issue threats to the Palestinian people.
"The Israeli government has translated these threats into fact by arming a great number of the settlers, sending armored vehicles into the settlements and flying helicopters overhead day and night."
Arafat warned on Thursday that Israeli troop reinforcements of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip constitute a new danger to the Middle East peace process.
The Palestinians earlier Friday condemned Israel for not going ahead with a troop pullout from the West Bank that had been planned for Friday in accordance with the Oslo accords of 1993.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was shirking his peace promises by missing deadlines that he himself had set.
"I am sorry that June 23 goes by without the implementation of the third phase redeployment; it was a date Barak himself suggested," Erakat told Voice of Palestine radio.
However the Palestinian leadership, in its statement, confirmed that it had accepted a US request for a two-week delay in the withdrawal, which was specified in the 1993 Oslo peace accords.
It also reaffirmed that the Palestinian authority still looked forward to a final settlement on the Palestinian territories by the agreed September 13th deadline - GAZA CITY (AFP)
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