- RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters)
- Israel stepped up military pressure on Yasser Arafat on Sunday as the
besieged Palestinian president vowed he would never surrender to an Israeli
campaign to root out Palestinian militants.
- "I have one choice, to be a martyr," Arafat
told Fox TV. "We will never surrender...We are in complete
- Arafat remained holed up inside his largely ruined
in the West Bank city of Ramallah, despite a call from the United Nations
for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian cities.
- Palestinians officials said Israeli forces had delivered
an ultimatum that they would storm Arafat's own offices to arrest wanted
militants they believed were hiding there. But Israeli officials denied
they had made such a threat.
- Israel launched its onslaught against Arafat early on
Friday after a devastating suicide bombing at the start of the Jewish
holiday last week, bringing an 18-month-old conflict to the very doorstep
of the Palestinian leader.
- The battle of wills between the two sides has only grown
in intensity and violence in the last month despite international calls
for a cease-fire.
- Israeli forces raided a Palestinian-ruled village near
the West Bank town of Tulkarm overnight and the army said troops shot dead
two armed Palestinians during an exchange of fire.
- On Saturday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a busy
Tel Aviv restaurant, wounding 32 people in an attack claimed by a group
linked to Arafat's Fatah organization. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said
the bombing was fueled by the move on Ramallah.
- President Bush, spending Easter weekend at his Texas
ranch, called on both sides to find a way to peace.
- But he placed the onus for the latest violence on the
Palestinians, saying he understood Israel's need to defend itself:
of the leaders in the world must stand up against terror...and that
applies to Chairman Arafat."
- He made no call for Israeli forces to withdraw from
compound but urged Israel's government to consider the consequences of
its actions and make sure "that there is a path to peace as she
- ARAFAT APPEAL
- A defiant Arafat, in a candlelit interview at his
headquarters, asked the world to end what he called Israel's assault on
- "I appeal to the international community to stop
this aggression against our people, this military escalation, this
the Palestinian leader told Reuters Television.
- The Israeli army has cut off water and electricity to
Arafat's compound but said on Saturday it had let Palestinian ambulances
deliver food, bottled water and candles.
- Aides to Arafat accused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon of planning to have him killed.
- "This step is a plan by Sharon against President
Arafat's life. This is a very grave step," Palestinian Information
Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told Qatar's al-Jazeera television.
- Abed Rabbo said troops threatened to storm the
- Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Sharon, denied Israeli
had handed an ultimatum to Arafat on entering his headquarters. Israel
has repeatedly denied it intends to hurt Arafat.
- However, Gissin said Israel wanted to "isolate
and take all necessary measures to uproot terrorist organizations that
have found refuge there."
- Israeli security sources said the mastermind of the
of Rehavam Zeevi, a far-right Israeli cabinet minister shot dead by
in October, was believed to be hiding with other militants in the
- U.N. SEEKS WAY OUT
- Israeli forces swept into Ramallah, 15 km (nine miles)
north of Jerusalem, at dawn on Friday as Israel declared Arafat its enemy
after Wednesday's suicide bombing that killed 22 Israelis.
- Israel's siege of Arafat's compound severely dented hopes
raised by an Arab summit's endorsement of a Middle East peace plan and
caused fury across the Arab world.
- The international community tried again on Saturday to
stop the violence when the U.N. Security Council, with the rare support
of the United States, called for Israel to withdraw from Ramallah and other
- Israel criticized the resolution for failing to stress
Palestinian responsibility for "terrorist" attacks. The
Authority said the resolution was positive and demanded an immediate
- At least 1,125 Palestinians and 384 Israelis have been
killed since the Palestinian revolt against Israeli occupation began in
September 2000 after peace talks broke down.
- Troops killed seven Palestinian security members in
in fighting on Saturday. Two other Palestinians on their way to carry out
a suicide bombing in Israel died during a firefight with Israeli border
police. An Israeli policeman was killed.
- In a sign that a second front could open up in the
Israeli jets fired missiles near Lebanese border towns on Saturday after
Hizbollah fighters attacked Israeli posts in a disputed frontier region,
witnesses and security officials said.