Tags: Violence | Continues | Israel | Mull | Mitchell | Report

Violence Continues as Israel, PA Mull Mitchell Report

Tuesday, 22 May 2001 12:00 AM

Secretary of State Colin Powell on Monday called the report an "excellent" beginning to ending the violence, and he named U.S. Ambassador to Jordan William Burns as an envoy to help the two sides achieve a cease fire.

The report was drawn up by former Senator George Mitchell and a fact-finding committee tasked to investigate the causes of the outbreak of violence last fall.

Jordan and Egypt both welcomed Powell's endorsement of the report. Both countries also reflected positively on what appears to be Washington's commitment to be more involved in trying to resolve the conflict.

Powell said he would be engaged in the process when Israel and the PA return to the negotiating table. President Bush had pledged not to become embroiled in the conflict as his predecessor had, but he has been gradually drawn in by the current crisis.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held discussions with U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk and other officials early Tuesday to discuss the implementation of the recommendations.

Indyk was due to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat later Tuesday.

Sharon spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said that the prime minister had discussed a "timeline" for implementing the various elements of the Mitchell report.

The sequence agreed upon, he said in a telephone interview, was the unconditional and complete cessation of violence, followed by a cooling-off period of about two months, and then the taking of confidence-building measures, including the implementation of all previously-signed agreements.

"Only after those stages [will Israel] start the political negotiating process," Gissin stressed.

Sharon said the Mitchell report was "acceptable ... in principle" to Israel.

Among the "confidence-building measures" suggested in the report is a halt to all Israeli settlement activity in disputed territories, including what has been termed "natural growth."

Israel's position on this remains at odds with that of Washington. Israel says it will not build new settlements, but continue to build inside existing settlements. The future of the settlements was held over in previous negotiations until permanent status talks get underway.

"Israel declared very clearly that we do not intend to build new settlements," said Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. "We do not intend to confiscate land. We do not intend to extend territorially the existing settlements."

Gissin acknowledged that Israel and the U.S. did not see eye to eye on this point, but said he was certain a "mechanism can be found to resolve the differences."

Arafat welcomed the findings of the report and called for a meeting of the parties that participated in a summit in Egypt last year which mandated the Mitchell commission.

He told reporters in Gaza that he hoped a summit would be held soon "to begin a discussion on this report and to begin its implementation."

PA Minister Saeb Erekat, who on Monday said the draft version of the report was particularly "harsh" on the PA, expressed willingness to implement the recommendations of the report.

"We're willing to implement it and to define the implementation with an agreed time line and with monitoring mechanisms," he said.

Poison

Among the Mitchell report's recommendation is a call for an end to all incitement. Although no blame was laid in the document, Israel has long accused the PA of using its official media to encourage continuing violence.

It did so again Tuesday, after PA Secretary-General Taib Abdul Rahim accused Israel of dropping poisoned candy from an airplane over the Gaza Strip in order to harm Palestinian children.

The official PA news agency quoted a hospital official in Gaza as saying four children had been taken ill with the radioactive poisoning. PA newspapers also carried the reports.

Israeli army spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal denied and condemned the report, which he said exemplified the "depth of incitement and contributes to the atmosphere of violence among the Palestinian public."

Violence continues

Mitchell's report also called for an "unconditional" cessation of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, but violence continued overnight.

A fierce gun battle raged for more than five hours between Palestinian gunmen firing from PA-controlled territory south of Jerusalem and soldiers returning fire from the neighborhood of Gilo.

A bullet struck an Israeli man in the eye as he sat watching TV in his Gilo home. Another resident, a Romanian worker, was wounded in the chest by bullet fragments, and three children were injured by flying glass when a bullet shattered a window in their home.

Jerusalem Police commander Miki Levy warned on Tuesday that mortar and sniper fire could soon be aimed at Gilo, which lies just across a small valley from PA-ruled territory.

In other incidents, three mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip fell inside Israel and another landed in an Israeli community inside the Strip early Tuesday morning.

(C)

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Secretary of State Colin Powell on Monday called the report an excellent beginning to ending the violence, and he named U.S. Ambassador to Jordan William Burns as an envoy to help the two sides achieve a cease fire. The report was drawn up by former Senator George...
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Tuesday, 22 May 2001 12:00 AM
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