Israel on high alert, Washington opposes Israeli bid to exile Arafat

Published September 7th, 2003 - 02:00 GMT

Israeli security forces were on a heightened state of alert on Sunday morning, after Israel attempted to assassinate Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and other top leaders of the movement in the Gaza Strip on Saturday.  


Following the strike, the Israeli security forces ordered a full closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians were not allowed to enter Israel.  


A senior police official told Haaretz daily that in light of the failed attempt on Yassin's life, the question was not whether there would be an attack, but when and where.  


Israeli police bolstered forces along the border line with the West Bank, in cities, and at major public transportation centers.  


Israeli forces were deployed near popular entertainment spots and shopping centers on Saturday night, and large numbers of police were deployed across the country on Sunday to bolster security on buses and other forms of public transportation. The police presence at schools was also beefed up following warnings that Palestinian groups plan to target educational institutions.  


Meanwhile, the Fatah Central Committee will convene Sunday in the West Bank city of Ramallah to discuss possible candidates to replace Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned on Saturday.  


Leading candidates for the position include Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), PA Finance Minister Salam Fayad and businessman, Munib al Masri. 


In a related development, the Washington Post reported Sunday it seems unlikely the Bush administration will reverse course and begin to talk to Yasser Arafat again. But allowing the Israelis to exile Arafat would be "a dramatic step" that the administration may be hesitant to take as it deals with the continuing fallout from the war in Iraq, the newspaper said.  


White House spokesman Scott McClellan noted in a statement Saturday: "The creation of the office of prime minister was a key turning point for the Palestinian Authority in the development of new institutions to serve all the people, not just a corrupt few tainted by terror."  


U.S. officials, for the moment, plan to put pressure on European and Arab leaders still in contact with Arafat to insist the next prime minister be given enhanced authority and powers, a senior administration official tols the paper. "Arafat is a gigantic obstacle to progress," he said. "He proved that by undermining this government. He is a great and continuing problem that the Palestinians need to deal with now." (

© 2003 Al Bawaba (

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