- JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Secretary
of State Colin Powell rescheduled a meeting with Yasser Arafat for Sunday
in which he is expected to push for cease-fire as a first step toward reviving
talks on a final peace settlement.
- Seeking to put back on track a peace mission dogged by
unceasing Israeli-Palestinian violence, Powell will head to Arafat's besieged
headquarters in Ramallah in the West Bank, where Israel has been waging
a two-week-long offensive.
- Powell had called off talks with Arafat set for Saturday
following a suicide bombing that killed six people in Jerusalem on Friday,
but decided to go ahead with the meeting after the Palestinian president
met U.S. demands to condemn the attack.
- As Israeli forces pressed on with their offensive, the
army said a soldier shot dead a Palestinian man on Saturday at a hostel
next to Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, where troops have been locked
in a standoff with armed men for 12 days.
- At the Jenin refugee camp to the north, journalists saw
the devastation left after days of the most ferocious fighting in the Israeli
military campaign in the West Bank.
- "The secretary will work with Chairman Arafat and
the Palestinian leadership and to help make these statements a reality
with effective action to bring an end to terror and violence and an early
resumption of a political process," State Department spokesman Richard
- LOW EXPECTATIONS
- Despite that, expectations for a breakthrough were low
after a series of failed U.S. and international missions, which have been
met by the bloody spiral of violence.
- Earlier in the day, Powell urged restraint by Israeli
forces, which swept into half a dozen more West Bank towns in defiance
of U.S. pressure to end the offensive.
- He also expressed concern about the "serious humanitarian
situation" in areas seized by the Israeli army, which has said its
intent is to root out militants behind attacks on Israelis.
- Those conditions were witnessed first-hand by Reuters
journalists in the Jenin camp. Its houses and passageways were smashed
and riddled with bullet holes, two days after Israelis crushed the last
major pocket of Palestinian resistance.
- Palestinians have accused Israel of carrying out a "massacre"
in Jenin in which hundreds were killed. Israel has dismissed the charge,
saying it tried to avoid civilian deaths.
- The army has said it killed 200 Palestinians during the
offensive, about half of them in the Jenin camp.
- In his statement, Arafat echoed other Palestinian officials,
Arafat accused the Israeli forces of committing "massacres and slaughters"
against Palestinians during the West Bank campaign.
- Sharon has called a meeting with Arafat a "tragic
mistake," and an Israeli diplomatic source said the government would
cooperate to arrange the talks but thought it would yield nothing.
- Powell has said the United States is seeking actions
and not just words from the Palestinian leader in its bid to staunch more
than 18 months of Middle East bloodshed in which at least 1,265 Palestinians
and 452 Israelis have been killed.
- ARAFAT TRAPPED
- Arafat has been trapped in his headquarters in Ramallah
surrounded by Israeli tanks since March 29, when the Israeli army launched
a sweeping offensive in the West Bank after a suicide bombing killed 28
people in an Israeli hotel.
- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ignored a flurry
of calls from Washington, Israel's chief ally, to withdraw from cities
and towns occupied during the offensive and made no commitment to Powell
beyond speeding up military operations.
- Israeli leaders are normally careful to avoid alienating
the United States, which provides the Jewish state with $3 billion in annual
- Powell's visit got off to a grim start with Friday's
bombing just outside the Mahane Yehuda market, which plunged his peace
mission into disarray.
- A group linked to Arafat's Fatah movement said it carried
out the attack. A Palestinian security official said it appeared to be
revenge for Israel's assault on Palestinian areas.
- Israel has met international condemnation for its siege
of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, built on the spot where Christians
believe Jesus was born.
- The army said it shot dead a man who appeared to have
taken up a position to fire on the Israelis, who have been surrounding
the church where at least 100 Palestinians, some of them armed, have been