- (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in
a statement Saturday that his military would expedite an end to its offensive
in the West Bank after repeated U.S. and international demands for a withdrawal.
- President Bush called Sharon on Saturday, a few hours
after Bush urged Israel to withdraw its troops "without delay."
In a statement released late Saturday as heavy fighting continued in the
West Bank, Sharon said Israel was conscious of the U.S. desire to have
Israel end its offensive as quickly as possible.
- The statement did not specify when an Israeli pullout
might begin. Nor did it indicate whether Israeli troops would be withdrawn
from all six Palestinian towns they occupy.
- A senior White House official said Bush left the timetable
for the withdrawal up to Israel. But Bush told Sharon that "Israel
needed to defuse the situation so that diplomacy can work," the official
- The official said Sharon then agreed to wrap up the offensive
"as expeditiously as possible."
- Latest developments
- * In a phone call with President Bush, Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon agreed to wrap up his country's military operations
in Palestinian areas "as expeditiously as possible," a senior
White House official said.
- * Secretary of State Colin Powell will head Sunday to
the Mideast to meet with leaders "representing all points of views."
Powell said he had no immediate plans to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser
- * Palestinian sources said the Israeli army was shelling
buildings and walls at Arafat's compound Saturday night. Four Palestinians
were wounded, one of them critically, the sources said.
- * Israeli warplanes and artillery hit suspected Hezbollah
targets in southern Lebanon in response to two attacks on Israeli positions
in Ghajar and nearby Shebaa Farms.
- Appearing at his ranch near Crawford, Texas, with British
Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier Saturday, Bush also repeated his demand
that Palestinian leaders immediately crack down on terrorism.
- "We agree that the Palestinian leadership must order
an immediate and effective cease-fire and crackdown on terrorists, and
we agree that Israel should halt incursions in the Palestinian-controlled
areas and begin to withdraw without delay from those cities it has recently
occupied." (Full story)
- Israel says the goal of its offensive, which began March
29, is to eliminate the ability of terrorist groups to target Israeli civilians
by capturing the terrorists' weapons and destroying their bomb-making capability.
- Earlier Saturday, Israeli Air Force Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz
said there were no immediate plans to heed Bush's call for a withdrawal.
- "We are going to continue our operation until we
are going to achieve the goals of this operation," Halutz said. However,
a senior Israeli political source told CNN that Israel "has no intention
to stay in the Palestinian territories or to reoccupy them."
- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was scheduled to
travel to the region on Sunday. Powell said there were no immediate plans
for him to meet with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, although
he did not rule out the possibility. (Full story)
- Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat welcomed Powell's
visit, but said, "If Mr. Powell comes here and he doesn't want to
meet President Arafat, I don't think he will meet any Palestinian officials."
- Fresh fighting reported in Nablus, Jenin
- Arafat has been holed up in his Ramallah compound for
more than a week, surrounded by Israeli troops.
- Palestinian sources said the Israeli army was shelling
buildings and perimeter walls Saturday night at Arafat's compound. Four
Palestinians were wounded in the attacks, one of them critically, said
Arafat adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh, who is in the compound.
- Heavy fighting broke out Saturday in Nablus, the West
Bank's largest city. Israeli troops backed by helicopter gunships battled
Palestinian gunmen and conducted house-to-house searches, according to
Palestinian residents and local officials.
- Five Palestinians were killed and 50 were wounded in
overnight fighting with Israeli forces in the city, Palestinian medical
sources said. (Full story)
- In Jenin, three Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting
late Friday and overnight, the Israeli army said. Palestinian sources said
Israeli troops bulldozed dozens of houses in a refuge camp in Jenin on
Saturday. The Palestinians said Israeli tanks and helicopters also fired
into the camp.
- In a separate incident near Jenin, Israeli troops shot
and killed a Palestinian who was wearing an explosive belt, the Israel
Defense Forces said.
- Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes and artillery hit suspected
Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon in response to shelling near Ghajar
village, in Israeli-occupied territory at the foot of the Golan Heights,
Lebanese security forces said. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the
- Demonstrators hold a Palestinian flag and a portrait
of Arafat during a pro-Palestinian march in Paris Saturday.
- The security officials said five mortar rounds hit an
Israeli post near the village.
- The Israeli incursion has prompted demonstrations around
the Arab world, in New York and on Saturday, in France.
- Up to 18,000 pro-Palestinian activists marched through
Paris on Saturday as part of a series of demonstrations across the country
condemning the surge of violence in the Middle East. The rally was billed
as one of the largest demonstrations ever in France in support of Palestinians.
- Similar pro-Palestinian marches were taking place in
the cities of Grenoble, Pau, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Orleans and
- On Friday, between 1,800 and 2,000 pro-Arab protesters
rallied in New York's Times Square chanting anti-Israeli slogans.
- In Manama, Bahrain, police clashed Friday with thousands
of demonstrators who had gathered outside the U.S. Embassy to protest U.S.
and Israeli actions in the Mideast.
- Protests were also reported in Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon,
Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Jordan.