- RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters)
- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday Yasser Arafat could
have a "one-way ticket" to exile as troops invaded more West
Bank towns and met fierce Palestinian resistance in Bethlehem.
- "It has got to be a one-way ticket. He would not
be able to return," Sharon said during a visit to a West Bank army
- Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian
leader, who has sworn to "die a martyr" rather than bow to
would never leave his homeland voluntarily.
- "Arafat said there is not a single Palestinian who
will accept going into exile under any circumstances," he said.
- Israel says its five-day-old campaign is aimed at
Arafat, Sharon's old foe, and "uprooting terrorists" behind
attacks that have killed dozens of Israelis.
- But Erekat said Sharon wanted to kill Arafat, who is
holed up in his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, despite
Israel's repeated assurances to the contrary.
- Secretary of State Colin Powell dismissed the idea that
Arafat should be expelled, saying the Palestinian president had an
role to play in the quest for Middle East peace.
- "Sending him to exile will just give him another
place from which to conduct the same kinds of activities and give the same
messages as he is giving now," Powell said.
- TROOPS ENTER BETHLEHEM
- Israel sent tanks into Bethlehem, the traditional
of Jesus, before dawn and fierce fighting erupted as outgunned Palestinians
fought to keep Israeli troops out of Manger Square.
- Witnesses reported clashes near the Church of Nativity,
built over the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born.
- A small contingent of tanks also entered Jenin in the
northern West Bank, apparently as a prelude to a full incursion as more
tanks massed outside, witnesses said.
- Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships pounded the
of a Palestinian security chief, Jibril al-Rajoub, near Ramallah, for
hours, charring the outer walls and leaving large holes in the red-tiled
- Some 400 people inside eventually agreed to surrender
and Israeli media said they were taken away for questioning.
- Rajoub, who was evacuated earlier, denied Israeli charges
that there were militants wanted by Israel sheltering in the compound.
He said the people inside had surrendered of their own accord.
- "They left for their own sake because they ran out
of food and ammunition. There was not a single bullet left, not a single
bottle of water," Rajoub told Reuters. "We wished that someone
would intervene. Nobody intervened."
- CASUALTY TOLL RISES
- Witnesses said the latest casualties included an
Palestinian man who was shot dead outside his house in Bethlehem and a
woman and her son also killed there.
- Majdi Benoura, 30, a Palestinian cameraman working for
Qatar's al-Jazeera station, was wounded in the neck as he was filming from
the roof of the city's Star Hotel, colleagues said.
- The Russian Orthodox Church sent an angry message to
Israel demanding an immediate withdrawal from a Russian church building
it said Israeli troops had occupied in the Bethlehem battles.
- European Union president Spain summoned the Israeli
to Madrid to demand that Israel quit Palestinian cities, in line with a
U.N. Security Council resolution adopted Saturday, and restore Arafat's
freedom of movement.
- Spain later called a rare emergency meeting of EU foreign
ministers for Wednesday to discuss the Middle East crisis. A spokesman
said the meeting would be in Brussels or Luxembourg.
- "We cannot confuse the fight against terrorism with
the destruction of the Palestinian Authority," EU foreign policy chief
Javier Solana told Reuters in Madrid. "The solution to the conflict
is not a military solution."
- DANGER OF SECOND FRONT
- Oil prices hit a six-month high on fears that unrest
could spread in the Middle East, which holds two-thirds of world oil
though no support emerged for Iraq's proposal to use an oil embargo to
put pressure on Israel's supporters.
- Raising the prospect of a second front opening in
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas attacked
Israeli positions in an area near the border and the Israeli-occupied Golan
- Israel said it had sent warplanes into action in
It gave no details but witnesses said Israeli warplanes fired at least
four missiles from warplanes at the edges of the nearby Lebanese border
town of Kfar Shouba.
- Troops also thrust into the northern city of Tulkarm
and nearby villages. In Tulkarm, soldiers ordered terrified residents to
- Israel army radio said two Palestinians had been found
dead in a car near Tulkarm, with a note from a group calling itself
Tears of the Widows and Children." The radio said police believed
a Jewish underground group was behind the killings.
- Israel's military offensive began Friday when it sent
tanks to besiege Arafat's headquarters after a suicide bombing in the
resort of Netanya two days earlier. Israeli media said Tuesday the death
toll in that attack had risen to 25.
- But the military campaign has so far failed to halt
bombings, of which there have been six in as many days.
- At least 1,140 Palestinians and 403 Israelis have been
killed since a Palestinian revolt began in September 2000.