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Saturday, 8 December, 2001, 18:44 GMT
US urged to restrain Israelis
rafah
Rafah blast damage: The US backs Israeli action
The Palestinian Authority has appealed to the United States to speak out against the current wave of Israeli attacks.


As long as Sharon feels he has the green light from the United States, no peace efforts will be conclusive

Saeb Erekat
A senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, urged President Bush to tell the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, that he did not have the green light from Washington for these attacks.

Earlier, Israeli helicopter gunships carried out raids in the Gaza Strip - the latest in a week-long campaign aimed at forcing the Palestinian Authority to do more to rein in militants.

Nine rockets fired from Apache helicopters over the town of Rafah ploughed into buildings belonging to three different security organisations - intelligence, military intelligence and Yasser Arafat's personal bodyguard Force 17.

Palestinian police with detainee in Gaza City
Arafat's security clampdown has not convinced the Israelis
Mr Erakat said: "We urge President Bush, for the sake of peace, to say to Sharon 'You don't have the green light. There is no military solution for this'.

"We need to give the efforts of (US envoy) General Anthony Zinni and Europe and Egypt the chance to revive the peace process, but as long as Sharon feels he has the green light from the United States, no efforts will be conclusive."

BBC correspondents say the call will probably go unheeded, with the US saying that Mr Arafat must do more to round up militants.

Witnesses said the pre-dawn assault blew large holes in the roofs of the buildings and toppled some walls.

No serious injuries were reported as the compound had been evacuated.

The Israeli army said the raid was in response to a mortar attack on Friday against Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported there either.

Israelis determined

Israel says it will continue its strikes until Mr Arafat arrests militants it blames for attacks on its citizens, including last weekend's suicide bombings which left 25 people dead.

The Israeli cabinet is due to meet on Sunday to consider further targets.

Yasser Arafat
Arafat's credibility has reached rock bottom in Israel and the US
Mr Arafat told the BBC that his security forces had arrested 17 Islamic militants from a list of 34 people wanted by Israel.

He said his officers would do their best to arrest the remaining militants on Israel's list, which he said the Mr Zinni had handed to him.

His remarks came as Palestinian and Israeli security officials held talks arranged by Mr Zinni in an effort to work out a ceasefire.

But our correspondents say Mr Arafat's room for manoeuvre is diminishing by the day - caught between the demands for action from Israel, and hostility from supporters of militant groups such as Hamas.

See also:

07 Dec 01 | Middle East
Turkish PM says Sharon targets Arafat
04 Dec 01 | Middle East
Arafat's Hamas problem
06 Dec 01 | Middle East
Now what for Arafat?
05 Dec 01 | Middle East
Mid-East splits Europe and US
04 Dec 01 | Middle East
Outrage at Israeli strikes
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