Arafat Says 'No Surrender'
As Israel Ups Pressure

By Mohammed Assadi

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 siege."
Arafat remained holed up inside his largely ruined compound 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 Passover 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: "All of the leaders in the world must stand up against terror...and that especially applies to Chairman Arafat."
He made no call for Israeli forces to withdraw from Arafat's 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 secures her homeland."
A defiant Arafat, in a candlelit interview at his tank-encircled headquarters, asked the world to end what he called Israel's assault on his people.
"I appeal to the international community to stop this aggression against our people, this military escalation, this killing," 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 offices.
Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Sharon, denied Israeli forces 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 Arafat and take all necessary measures to uproot terrorist organizations that have found refuge there."
Israeli security sources said the mastermind of the assassination of Rehavam Zeevi, a far-right Israeli cabinet minister shot dead by Palestinians in October, was believed to be hiding with other militants in the compound.
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 Palestinian-ruled cities.
Israel criticized the resolution for failing to stress Palestinian responsibility for "terrorist" attacks. The Palestinian Authority said the resolution was positive and demanded an immediate Israeli withdrawal.
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 Ramallah 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 region, 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.

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