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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Israel sounds the alarm
Israeli army photo of impounded fishing boat and arms allegedly bound for Gaza Strip
Evidence, Israel says, of Palestinian plans to step up attacks
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has warned of a "very dangerous development" in the Middle East following the discovery of an arms cache bound for Palestinian-controlled territory.

Mr Sharon said Israel had "for months" been monitoring attempts by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority to smuggle weapons.

I think that quite soon we will be passing beyond the stage of the mortar bombs

Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
The arms, which included Katyusha rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, were found on a fishing boat travelling from northern Lebanon.

Tension continued on Tuesday when the body of an Israeli who had been stabbed and shot was found near a Jewish settlement close to the town of Nablus in the West Bank.

Some 500 people have now been killed in more than seven months of violence. Most are Palestinians as well as nearly 80 Israeli Jews and a number of Israeli Arabs.

The dead settler - who has been identified as Arye Orlando - was apparently guarding an orchard when he was attacked.

Israeli troops, who immediately sealed off the area, believe the killer came from a nearby Palestinian village.

Sharon attack

In a rare address to the foreign press corps in Jerusalem, Mr Sharon lambasted Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Shell holes in building where Palestinian baby died
The building where the Palestinian baby died
He said the fishing boat carrying the arms cache had already supplied weapons to the Palestinians on three occasions.

"That only emphasises the intentions of the Palestinian Authority," he said.

And Mr Sharon accused Mr Arafat of a clear violation of the Oslo peace accords, pointing out that such weapons are not allowed in Palestinian controlled areas.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo on Monday denied that either the Palestinian Authority or the PLO were involved in the smuggling.

Yasser Arafat visits a wounded Palestinian child
Arafat visits a boy wounded in Israeli fire
An Israeli naval commander, Major General Yadidiah Ya'ari, said the boat had been sent by a Palestinian faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

Katyusha rockets have a much longer range than the mortars so far fired during the Palestinian uprising.

Israel announced the discovery of the arms shortly after a four-month old Palestinian baby was killed by Israeli shrapnel on Monday.

Rare apology

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a rare public apology on Monday, saying Israeli troops did not intend to harm children.

Shrapnel went into [the baby's] abdomen and came out of her back

Hospital official in Gaza
He was speaking after Israeli tanks shelled the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, killing a four-month-old Palestinian girl.

Iman Hajo was the youngest person to be killed in the current conflict. Medics said she died after being hit by shrapnel in the abdomen.

Her mother and grandmother were among about two dozen people wounded in the attack.

Mr Sharon repeated his apology on Tuesday, saying he had "thought a lot about the incident".

The BBC's Peter Biles
"A familiar flashpoint in the West Bank"
Israeli journalist Peter Hirschberg
"Mr Sharon is acutely aware of international opinion"
Palestinian Legislative Assembly's Hannah Ashrawi
"The magical solution is if the Israeli army withdraws"
See also:

08 May 01 | Middle East
Arms haul sparks new fears
05 May 01 | Middle East
Report criticises Israeli settlements
04 May 01 | Middle East
Mid-East report under scrutiny
27 Apr 01 | Middle East
Israel considers peace plan response
23 Apr 01 | Middle East
Palestinians admit suicide bombing
25 Apr 01 | Middle East
Gaza blast kills four
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