Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Monday that the confinement of Yasser Arafat to his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah was ended, and the Palestinian leader could now move within areas under Palestinian rule.
Sharon "decided to no longer restrict the movements of Arafat in the territories of the Palestinian Authority," the Prime Minister's Office said in an official statement.
Sharon's foreign policy adviser, Danny Ayalon, said earlier Monday that Arafat still requires Israeli approval to travel abroad.
Israel has kept Arafat under house arrest since December, and made his release conditional on the arrests of the killers of cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi in a Jerusalem hotel last October.
At least nine Palestinians were reported killed in exchanges of fire during Monday, as dozens of Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers and large infantry forces streamed into the West Bank city of Qalqilyah, and violence flared in refugee camps near Bethlehem and in the Gaza Strip.
In Qalqilyah, Israeli forces clamped a curfew over the city and cut off the electrical supply before launching house-to-house searches for suspected operatives, witnesses said. A civilian and a PA policeman were killed during the raid, Palestinians said.
The Israeli army said its operation in Qalqilya was concluded Monday evening.
Palestinians also reported that tanks entered the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, killing one person.
A Palestinian was also killed in Gaza and in Yatta in the West Bank.
Witnesses reported that 10 tanks were stationed around the small Al-Aza camp in northern Bethlehem overnight and troops entered several houses on the fringes of the camp after dawn.
In the evening at least two Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip. Israel said its troops shot and killed a Palestinian who fired several mortar shells into a settlement in the northern Gaza Strip.
PA, Israel Meeting
Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met on Monday afternoon with Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala), speaker of the Palestinian parliament and head of the Palestinian negotiating team.
The Palestinian side included PA cabinet minister Saeb Erekat.
The atmosphere at the meeting was described by political sources in Jerusalem as "earnest". Palestinian sources said that the meeting, as expected, did not achieve anything.
According to Haaretz, Peres said earlier Monday that Israel should stop its air strikes against Palestinian targets.
Asked if he backed widespread Israeli incursions into Palestinian cities, Peres told Army Radio on Monday, "I would very much hestitate before entering these areas, and then only when there was no alternative. I am in favor of talking with the Palestinians. I think the [aerial] bombings should be stopped. They do us more harm than good." (Albawaba.com)
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