- GAZA (UPI) - Israeli army
armored vehicles and bulldozers early Friday destroyed the runway at the
Gaza International Airport owned by the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian
eyewitnesses and security sources reported.
- The $60 million runway, which was built in 1999, had
been used by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in flying to other parts
of the world as recently as a few months ago, although the airport itself
was shut down by Israel about 15 months ago when the intifada began.
- The airport facility had been a source of pride for the
Palestinians in providing access to the outside world.
- Palestinian witnesses said about 21 vehicles drove into
the Palestinian-controlled area east of Rafah town in the southern Gaza
Strip early Friday as Israel continued its campaign of retaliation for
a Palestinian raid that killed four Israeli soldiers on Wednesday.
- A militant wing of Hamas had claimed responsibility for
the raid, in which two Palestinian militants also were killed, but Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that his administration considers
"the Palestinian Authority fully responsible for what
- The Palestinian Authority condemned the Hamas raid,
"It gives Sharon the excuse to resume his aggression and collective
punishments on our people."
- Palestinian eyewitnesses said more than 10 bulldozers
tore up the 3.5-kilometer-long (2.2-mile-long) airport runway, beginning
at 2 a.m. local time Friday.
- On Thursday, the Israeli army destroyed more than 70
Palestinian homes on the border between Rafah town and Egypt, leaving at
least 120 families homeless, according to Palestinian residents and PA
- The Israel Defense Forces spokesman said Israeli forces
destroyed buildings that had provided cover for attackers against Israeli
troops. The IDF spokesman also said they suspected that the structures
provided cover for tunnels used for arms smuggling.
- Sharon said Wednesday that his government would
its policy against the Palestinian Authority in light of Wednesday's attack
and the capture of an estimated 50 tons of arms and explosives on a ship
in the Red Sea last week.
- The vessel, the Karine A, said to be owned by an Iraqi
national, was seized by an Israeli boarding party Jan. 3. Its cargo
Katyusha rockets, mortar bombs, anti-tank weapons and C-4 explosives.
said the arms were meant for the Palestinian Authority, and fingered Iran
as the supplier. Iran has denied that allegation.
- Sharon has accused Arafat of being personally implicated
in the smuggling plot.
- Under the terms of various Middle East peace agreements,
Palestinian security forces are only allowed light weapons, which the
are supposed to supply them with.
- Arafat has denied that he or the Palestinian Authority
were involved in the ship smuggling incident. Arafat announced Monday that
he was establishing a commission to investigate the Israeli allegations
and urged the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United
Nations to join an international inquiry into the incident.
- If evidence turned up involvement by a Palestinian
that official would be prosecuted, Arafat said.
- In interviews arranged Monday by the Israeli authorities,
ship captain Omar Akawi, speaking from an Israeli prison, said he received
the weapons off Iran's coast and was supposed to deliver them to smaller
vessels off the Egyptian coast.
- He said one of the men who loaded the deadly cargo was
known to him as a member of the Lebanese Islamic guerrilla movement,
The United States has long said that Iran funds and arms Hezbollah.
- Akawi, 44, identified himself as a longtime member of
Arafat's own Fatah movement, and said he was acting under orders from a
man he said was a Palestinian official.
- Copyright © 2002 United Press International