- RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN)
-- Israeli and Palestinians exchanged gunfire on Sunday at the headquarters
of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
- Arafat has been trapped in the besieged compound in Ramallah,
West Bank, since Friday when Israeli forces stormed the base as part of
what it says is a crackdown on terrorism.
- The latest assault comes in the wake of a suicide bombing
in Tel Aviv on Saturday which injured 29 people.
- Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN that
Arafat's bodyguards exchanged fire with the Israeli soldiers, and some
Palestinian guards were wounded.
- Erakat said Israeli troops had entered Arafat's compound.
The Israeli military said it had returned fire when a Palestinian gunman
came out of the building containing Arafat's office and opened fire on
- An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said the soldiers
did not enter Arafat's office, but would not comment on whether the Israeli
forces entered the building housing his office.
- An Israeli spokesman has said the siege -- denounced
by the Arab world (Full story) -- would last as "long as it is necessary"
to root out terrorism, blaming Arafat for ordering attacks against Israeli
- Just blocks away from the Ramallah compound, Arafat's
mother-in-law Ramounda Taweel said: "We are hearing the helicopters
and tanks ... we are hearing the shooting."
- Two Palestinian guards were seriously wounded, Palestinian
sources said, and ambulance services could not reach the men.
- Saturday's terror attack in a crowded shopping area in
Tel Aviv injured 29 people -- one critically and six seriously -- Israeli
- Witnesses described the blast in My Coffee Shop, about
three blocks from the Mediterranean coast, as "huge." Shards
of glass littered the street and bloody bystanders were led away as ambulances
raced to the scene.
- The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- the military wing of
Arafat's Fatah movement -- claimed responsibility for the attack, as it
has for a recent series of such bombings. The dead bomber was identified
by Israeli television as a 23-year-old man from Nablus in the West Bank.
- The bombing was the fourth Palestinian terror attack
since the beginning of the Passover holiday Wednesday night. The attacks
have killed 28 Israelis and wounded more than 100. In the most deadly attack,
a suicide bombing in the Israeli coastal town of Netanya claimed 22 lives.
- In response to that attack, Israeli forces entered Arafat's
headquarters Friday, punching holes in the walls, bringing in tanks and
armored vehicles, fighting room-to-room and arresting dozens of Palestinians
inside. At least five Palestinians and one Israeli officer were killed
in Friday's fighting.
- Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said Saturday
he feared for Arafat's life "and the lives around him. This is a very
grave development and it could lead to a massacre." Israel officials
have said they will not harm Arafat.
- Arafat, who appealed to the world community for help,
was holed up in a two-room office -- lacking electricity and running water
-- with Israeli tanks just outside.
- "I am appealing to the whole international world
to stop this aggression against our people," he said by cell phone
Saturday, "this military escalation day by night, this killing ....
Where has this been done all over the world?" He made similar comments
Friday. (Full story)
- Gideon Meir, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry,
said the incursions would last until Israeli Defense Forces succeeded in
their campaign against terrorism.
- He said the goal of the military operation in Ramallah
was to "isolate" Arafat -- whom Prime Minister Ariel Sharon labeled
an "enemy" on Friday -- so he "will not be able to instruct
his terrorist organizations."
- Palestinians have blamed Israel for the escalating violence,
pointing to the incursions as antagonistic and demanding a withdrawal of
- But President Bush, speaking from his Texas ranch, said
Arafat must do more to stop violence.
- "I think Chairman Arafat could do a lot more. I
truly believe that. I believe he needs to stand up and condemn, in Arabic,
these attacks," Bush said. (Full story)
- Bush also said he understood "Israel's need to defend
herself and I respect that," but he urged the Israeli government to
"make sure that there is a path to peace as she secures her homeland."
- In response to the Israeli incursions, the U.N. Security
Council adopted a resolution early Saturday demanding Israel withdraw from
Palestinian cities, including Ramallah. The resolution also called on both
sides to cooperate with U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni's cease-fire efforts.
- Zinni has spent the past two weeks in the region pushing
for the implementation of a plan to break the cycle of attack and reprisal,
and on Thursday the Arab League adopted a Saudi-proposed blueprint for
peace. Bush said Saturday he has asked Zinni to stay in the region as "an
opportunity for people to come together."
- Just outside Ramallah, in al Bireh, Israeli forces rounded
up hundreds of Palestinian males between the ages of 15 and 45. About 260
men were taken into a nearby school for questioning. Israeli forces have
detained about 140 men in the past two days.
- Meanwhile, the bodies of five Palestinians, four in military-style
uniforms, were found shot to death in another building in downtown Ramallah
on Saturday. (Full story)
- The Israeli army said a gunfight began when a Palestinian
opened fire on soldiers outside the building and then threw a hand grenade.
- "In response, the Israeli army forces entered the
building to search for the gunman, and when they entered, the gunmen opened
fire from one of the rooms," the army said.
- Other developments
- Arafat speaks by candlelight from within his compound
- * An Israeli army spokesman said the army had surrounded
the office of Jibril Rajoub, head of preventive security in the West Bank,
in Beitunia near Ramallah. Rajoub, speaking on CNN shortly after the arrival
of the troops, said the Israelis had demanded "wanted people"
inside the headquarters.
- * Israeli military sources said an Israeli army armored
personnel carrier entered the Palestinian-controlled area of Hebron after
gunfire came from the area. The carrier entered the area to "conduct
searches and was planning to leave the area when they were finished searching,"
a military source said. But Palestinian security sources said three Israeli
tanks and a jeep entered the area firing tank shells and machine guns.
- * Israeli outposts near the Lebanese border came under
fire Saturday by Hezbollah forces, according to Israeli military sources.
The Hezbollah militants fired missiles and mortar bombs toward the army
border posts in Shebaa Farms, the sources said. Israeli forces returned
fire and no Israeli soldiers were injured in the attack, the military sources
- * Israeli border police killed a Palestinian gunman in
an exchange of fire Saturday on the Israel-northern West Bank border near
Bakah al Sharkiah, Israeli police said. An Israeli police officer was wounded.
- * The IDF said its troops moved into the Arab town of
Beit Jala overnight Friday, after a mortar was fired into the nearby Jewish
neighborhood of Gilo on the outskirts of Jerusalem. No one was injured
in the attack.