Tags: Israel | Vows | Increased | Attacks

Israel Vows Increased Attacks

Wednesday, 20 February 2002 12:00 AM

"There will be more aggressive activity because the Palestinians are escalating," Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit said after a meeting of the inner Political-Security ministerial committee. "We shall react more forcefully against any terror target."

His comments came as Israeli army Apache helicopters resumed air strikes against Palestinian Authority security installations around Arafat's headquarters by the sea, Palestinian eyewitnesses said. The attacks followed a predawn raid on the headquarters that killed six members of Arafat's elite Force 17 presidential guard.

In Wednesday evening's attack, witnesses said they saw the flashes of two missiles fired at Gaza City's western neighborhood, and then heard loud explosions. They said firefighters and ambulances rushed to the area. No injuries were reported.

Arafat was in the West Bank town of Ramallah, where he has been bottled up for the last two months, at the time of the attacks. Israeli tanks have confined him there to press a demand he arrest the planners and assassins of Tourism Minister Rehavamm Ze'evi. Israeli security sources say the planners have an office near Arafat's Ramallah headquarters.

Arafat dismissed the strikes that killed his bodyguards and said they would not intimidate his people.

"Danger? What does danger mean? . ... No one would be able to terrorize our people," Arafat told reporters.

But he called for U.S. intervention to stop the fighting.

Arafat said he hoped President Bush would "intervene" and continue the peace process "his father started in Madrid's peace conference in 1993."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher did not directly condemn the Israeli retaliation but did say it was counterproductive.

"Actions in densely populated areas, and actions directly against Palestinian Authority administrative and security facilities that are in these areas work against the overall objective of reducing the violence and achieving security," said Boucher.

State Department director for policy planning, Richard Haass was in the Middle East for "policy planning," Boucher said. He said Haass did not intend to take part in any negotiations.

Israel's latest actions follow a

There have been up to two attempted suicide bombings a day. The latest was foiled Tuesday when a bus driver kicked the militant out of a bus and drove off. The militant then blew himself up.

The Israeli retaliation included air, naval and ground attacks that have killed 18 Palestinians, hospitals officials said. Ten were killed in Nablus in the West Bank; six in Gaza; and two in Ramallah.

Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Eitan, head of Central Command, said the Israel Defense Forces "will increase operations against perpetrators of terror and those who fight against us as long as the Palestinian Authority fails to carry out its commitments.

"We are at war in a struggle against a terror and guerrilla attack, and we shall exercise our basic right for self defense," said Eitan.

Palestinian Brig. Gen. Abdul Razeq al Majayda said the Israeli army's actions had crossed all lines.

"The Israeli army's action proves 100 percent that this Israeli government is not interested at all in peace with Palestinians," he said.

Attacking Palestinian towns and villages "in such a barbarian way means the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is not interested in any peace with the Palestinians," al Majayda said.

An Israeli government statement issued after Wednesday’s inner Political-Security ministerial committee meeting was vague on what Israel would do. It said that after consultations with the army and the security establishment Sharon approved "a different scheme of activity" and would be in daily touch with the top army and security services "to follow the change of trend in the battle against terror."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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There will be more aggressive activity because the Palestinians are escalating, Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit said after a meeting of the inner Political-Security ministerial committee. We shall react more forcefully against any terror target. His comments came as...
Wednesday, 20 February 2002 12:00 AM
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