- RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters)
- Only a door separated Israeli soldiers from Palestinian President Yasser
Arafat's private office on Saturday after a night of continuous shelling
and shooting around his headquarters, aides said.
- Arafat spent the night in darkness after Israeli troops
besieging his West Bank compound cut off the electricity and telephone
and conditions there were steadily worsening, they said.
- The aides said Israeli troops have been gradually tightening
their siege around Arafat and a handful of close aides inside the 70-year-old
al-Moqataa district compound in Ramallah.
- Arafat, accustomed to close brushes with death during
his long career as a guerrilla leader and statesman, remained defiant and
in high spirits.
- Tawfiq al-Tirawi, head of Palestinian intelligence in
the West Bank, said Israeli special forces moved closer to Arafat's private
office when they shot their way through into the operations room of Arafat's
bodyguards, injuring two.
- Only a door separates Arafat's private office from Israeli
soldiers, he told Qatar-based al-Jazeera television by telephone.
- "We didn't only spend the night under siege but
also under continuous shelling and shooting," said Tirawi, among a
handful of aides around Arafat.
- "They want us to be cut from the outside world regarding
telephone connections and all other communications," he said.
- Asked how Arafat spent the night, he said: "Like
the rest of our people. There is no electricity and no water, like the
rest of our people."
- "This situation has been imposed on us and we can
only be steadfast."
- Palestinian cabinet minister Hassan Asfour said: "They
have cut off everything (from Arafat) except his will."
- ISRAELI PUSH
- Israeli tanks and armored vehicles rumbled into Ramallah
early on Friday, saying the operation was in response to a wave of Palestinian
suicide attacks against Israel.
- Palestinians have been waging an uprising against Israeli
occupation over the past 18 months.
- Tanks pounded the compound with heavy machinegun fire
and armored bulldozers smashed their way inside, allowing special forces
to get into the building where Arafat's offices are located.
- The U.N. Security Council on Saturday issued a resolution
calling on Israel to pull out its troops from Ramallah. But there were
no signs that the Jewish state planned to comply.
- Tirawi and other Arafat aides said the situation was
growing worse by the hour, as the beleaguered staff draw on their small
food and water supplies and as cellular telephone batteries grew weaker
with no chance of recharging them.
- "The situation is terrible. There is no water or
electricity," one Arafat aide told Reuters in a brief telephone conversation,
cut short by attempts to conserve resources.
- One source said Arafat's closest aides have covered walls
with slogans to boost morale. "They will not pass," read one
slogan written in large Arabic letters on Arafat's door, quoting from one
of Arafat's famous speeches during a previous siege in Lebanon.
- Palestinians following the situation inside the compound
said Arafat and his aides were not likely to be able to hold out for long
without electricity, water, food or medical supplies.
- At least one of Arafat's bodyguards was killed and more
than 20 others injured on Friday when they used personal weapons to try
to stop the advancing Israeli soldiers.
- Arafat aides said the Palestinian president had personally
been helping his private doctor treat wounded bodyguards.
- They said an attempt to evacuate the wounded to hospital
was cut short after Israeli soldiers arrested some of them from ambulances.
- Arafat spent Friday speaking to world leaders and giving
defiant interviews over cellular telephones to Arab and international television
- "They want me a prisoner, dead, a fugitive. I say
(rather) a martyr," Arafat's defiant voice rang in one interview to
Jazeera television, rebroadcast on Palestine television broadcasting from