Powell Urges Israel to End Occupation of Palestinian Land

Published November 20th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Monday said Israel was crippling chances for peace by building settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank and in Gaza, where Israel has maintained a military occupation since 1967, said reports. 

Powell's speech came as Israeli army leaders said that the overcrowded Gaza Strip, where Israel's settlements have time and again been the flashpoints of fighting, could witness a huge popular uprising sparked by economic stress and desperation that would oust the Palestinian Authority.  

``Israeli settlement activity has severely undermined Palestinian trust and hope,'' Powell said, cited by AP. ``It pre-empts and prejudices the outcome of negotiations, and in doing so it cripples chances for real peace and security.''  

Powell said later: ``Settlement activity must stop for the sake of Palestinians and Israelis alike. The occupation must end, and it can only end through negotiations.''  

The top US official also called the Arab-Israeli conflict the central problem in the region, reported AP.  

According to the UK-based magazine The Economist, Israel has "flouted" the 1993 Oslo peace accords by settling tens of thousands of its citizens on vast swathes of land seized from Palestinian owners 34 years ago and kept under military occupation.  

Unlike his predecessors in the past 28 years, the secretary of state did not say he would go to the Mideast himself to promote his program with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, said AP. 

Instead, Powell is sending Assistant Secretary of State William Burns this week in his place, said the agency, and retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni will be sent as Powell's special adviser. 

Nabil Shaath, a leading Palestinian official, was quoted by AP as saying that``For the first time, the United States is speaking about ending Israeli occupation,'' he said. ``For the first time, they are speaking about a viable Palestinian state.''  

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who will visit Washington in December for talks with President George W. Bush and Powell, praised the speech but also stressed that Jerusalem must remain the "indivisible" capital of Israel forever. 

Israel has for 34 years maintained a military occupatiuon of Jerusalem, which lies outside of the borders mandated for the Jewish state when it was established decades ago under the auspices of the UN. Israel's insistence on holding onto the occupied city has tripped up numerous rounds of peace talks. 

Sharon also emphasized that all "violence" must cease before negotiations begin, his office said in a statement cited by AP. 

The Israeli premier, who took office promising to guarantee the safety of ordinary Israelis within a short period of time, has since told his Likud Party inner circle to prepare for a long fight. 

Over 710 Palestinians and more than 190 Israelis have been killed in the latest Palestinian rebellion against the occupation, according to news agencies. 

 

FIGHTING CONTINUES, CHAOS LOOMS IN GAZA  

 

As the US delivered its major policy plans to the world, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian man in the West Bank Monday, while Israeli army sources predicted that the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Gaza could collapse under the strain of fighting and economic blockades. 

Palestinian security sources said the dead man, Maher Fareq Daghlas, 20, was a member of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service. 

Reuters cited the Israeli army as saying Daghlas and an accomplice were spotted trying to plant an explosive device near the Shavei Shomron settlement, about eight miles northwest of the Palestinian-ruled city of Nablus. 

Earlier Monday, three Israelis were wounded by a drive-by shooting attack on their car outside Shavei Shomron, added the agency. 

Meanwhile, the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper reported Monday that Israeli Army analysts believe that economic stress in the Gaza Strip, coupled with the PA's inability to furnish persuasive evidence of gains in the struggle against Israel, could produce an explosive popular uprising.  

A top army officer in the Southern Command predicted yesterday that PA control in Gaza would "continue to decline."  

In fact, Haaretz quoted the officer as saying that the PA "might collapse," and warned that "a wide-scale, major uprising, along the lines of the first Intifada of December 1987," could erupt.  

Israel has maintained a military stranglehold on the Palestinian economy for most of the last 14 months of the uprising, costing billions and sending it into a tailspin. 

The army is concerned that economic despair intensifies motivation to carry out suicide attacks, said the report. "Volunteers for such attacks are hardly lacking," the senior Southern Command officer said - Albawaba.com

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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