US Conveys Contradictory Messages as Israel Continues with Massive Attack on Gaza, Tanks Move En Masse into West Bank
The US said Israel has the right to defend it self, commenting on a massive missile attack on Gaza that caused severe damage to Palestinian President’s Yasser Arafat heliport. Meanwhile, Washington said that dialogue between Arafat and the Israelis must continue, said reports.
The attack on Gaza came exactly at the iftar (the meal breaking a Ramadan day-long fast,) seen by Palestinian officials as intended to cause as many human casualties as possible. Apache helicopters fired missiles Arafat's heliport in Gaza City, destroying two helicopters.
Colonel Abul Ola from the Palestinian police told Voice of Palestine Radio that two Palestinians were killed in the attacks. Scores of people were hurt, said reports.
The Palestinian Authority called on the United States to intervene following Israel's raids, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told Abu Dhabi television Monday.
"I spoke to the Americans minutes after the raids started ... They said they would do their best (to stop them), but didn't say more," Erekat said, as quoted by AFP.
"We told them we got their message and that we will do our utmost," said Erekat, referring to President George W. Bush's request to Arafat Sunday to hunt down those responsible for a string of weekend bombings in Israel.
However, as the Israeli strikes on Gaza began the White House said that "Israel has a right to defend itself."
Meanwhile, the White House was quoted by AFP as saying that Israel and Arafat must continue to pursue dialogue while emphasizing that the Palestinian leader must show "in deeds" that he wants peace.
"There is a real chance for Chairman Arafat to show the world, in deeds, he stands for peace," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters as Israeli helicopters pounded their targets in Gaza after a spate of weekend suicide bombings that killed more than two dozen Israelis.
Meanwhile, Israeli tanks and armored vehicles have descended en masse on Palestinian areas in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority said in a statement Monday, without giving further detail.
"The Israeli occupation forces have begun to concentrate numerous tanks, armored vehicles and troop carriers around towns and Palestinian villages," a Palestinian Authority spokesman told the official WAFA news agency.
Israel said the raid was a signal to the Palestinian leader to step up the fight against extremists.
Spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told CNN that "This attack ... was intended to send a very clear signal: either Arafat brings justice to these people and fights terrorism, or we will have to do it," said Raanan Gissin on CNN television – Albawaba.com
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