Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat urged the world on Friday to force Israel to stop its army raids that have killed about 20 Palestinians, warning that the Middle East could plunge into chaos.
"I call upon the whole world to act quickly before a state of chaos engulfs the whole Middle East region," Arafat told reporters at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "It's a new massacre against the Palestinian people," he said.
It was Arafat’s first public comment since Israeli troops and tanks began a massive attack on two West Bank refugee camps early on Thursday.
On Friday, a senior member of the military wing of Palestinian Islamic Resistance Hamas was one of at least five Palestinians killed during exchanges of fire between Israeli troops and armed Palestinians in refugee camps of Jenin and Balata. At least 30 others were wounded Friday as the Israeli attack moved into its second day.
The Hamas member was identified as Haled Jamal Nazam, a senior activist in the Jenin camp. Palestinians said that a seven-year old child, Moussa Talalka, was killed in the Gaza Strip, a 10-year-old girl was killed while standing near the window of her Jenin home, and the two more people were killed in Balata.
Palestinians also said Friday that Israeli forces took control over the Balata home of Nasser Awid, the head of the Fatah military wing.
The Israeli army said Friday that at least 20 armed Palestinians were killed since the its raid on the refugee camps commenced.
Arafat's Fatah movement threatened Friday to launch its home-made rockets at Israeli cities if the Israeli presence in the camps continued, Army Radio reported.
The Fatah military wing commander in the northern West Bank told the Nazareth based A Sinara newspaper Friday that his men would launch suicide bombing in Israel and would use improved hang-gliders to carry out attacks.
Shami Shami, a Fatah leader in the Jenin camp, said Israeli tanks surrounded the camp, and troops were confronting about 300 Palestinian gunmen. Witnesses said Israeli soldiers were going from house to house making arrests.
In the Balata camp near Nablus, residents said the Israeli operation was continuing. The Israeli soldiers went from house to house by knocking down walls between the flimsy shelters, residents said. Ten houses were destroyed, residents said.
Palestinian sources said that the Israeli troops had cut the camp off from the nearby city of Nablus and had sealed off the roads out of the camp.
Palestinian security officials said most of the gunmen had left the camp, and the soldiers were not making arrests. Instead, they said, it appeared that the soldiers were looking for weapons and explosives.
Palestinians charged that Israel had escalated its aggression by entering the camps. "By its brutal attacks against the Palestinian refugee camps in Nablus and Jenin, the Israeli government has declared its true intentions," said Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo in a statement to the Palestinian news agency, WAFA. He said Israel's goals are "escalating the security situation and killing a large number of defenseless Palestinian civilians."
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Israel should immediately get out of the camps and that he was "distressed" by Palestinian casualties in the raids.
“What distresses me particularly is that this time, as a result of incursions into refugee camps by the Israeli forces, large numbers of Palestinians are reported dead or injured,” Annan said.
“I call on the Israeli army to withdraw from these camps immediately, and I implore both sides to refrain from further actions which may endanger yet more civilian lives,” he commented. “They should remember that international law requires them to avoid and prevent attacks on civilians, and to respect the immunity of humanitarian facilities, including those of the United Nations.”
In Gaza, meanwhile, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) voiced “deep dismay and concern at the heavy casualties and loss of life,” as well as the occupation by Israeli forces of a school run by the Agency during the incursion into Jenin and Nablus.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Israel has the right to defend itself, but he expressed concern over the incursions. "We have been in touch with the Israeli government to urge that utmost restraint be exercised in order to avoid harm to the civilian population," he said. (Albawaba.com)
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