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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 14:34 GMT
Arafat says Sharon has him marked
Women in Khan Yunis watch the funeral procession for four men killed in Israeli helicopter attack
Mourners watch the funeral procession in Gaza
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says he is convinced that the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, is intent on harming him.


Sharon either forgets history or he does not learn from it

Yasser Arafat
"He intends to do this and has been making this public since 1982," Mr Arafat told a Kuwaiti newspaper, al-Rai al-Aam.

Mr Arafat made the comments as the funerals took place in Gaza of four Palestinians killed in Israeli helicopter attacks on Tuesday night.

Israel said that the men were behind repeated attacks on a Jewish settlement.

Despite calls by US peace envoy Anthony Zinni for an end to the violence, Israel insists on its right to strike those who attack its targets or are considered a threat to Israeli security.

History lesson

In his interview, Mr Arafat said Mr Sharon has had a score to settle with him ever since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon denied that he wanted to "be rid" of Arafat
He said Mr Sharon, who was defence minister at the time, had tried to expel him from Beirut in 1982, but had only succeeded in having him take up residence in Gaza and the West Bank.

"Sharon either forgets history, or he does not learn from it," he said.

The Palestinian leader also cited comments made last week by the Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, who said Mr Sharon had told him in a private phone conversation that he wanted to be rid of Mr Arafat.

Mr Ecevit's remarks were immediately denied by the Israelis.

Arrests demanded

Mr Arafat is under increasing pressure not only from Israel, but the United States and the European Union to rein in radical Palestinian groups whose members have carried out a recent wave of suicide attacks.

Mr Zinni, who presided over a new round of talks on Tuesday with Israeli and Palestinian security officials, is trying to secure a ceasefire.

The retired US general has asked Israel to refrain from attacking Palestinian targets for another 48 hours to give Palestinians a chance to crack down on extremist groups.

But a statement issued by Mr Sharon's office said, "Israel will reply to every mortar bomb fired and every other act of terror."

Funerals

On Wednesday, several thousand mourners gathered for the funeral of four Palestinians killed in an Israeli helicopter attack.

The men were buried in a cemetery on the edge of the Khan Yunis refugee camp, only metres from where they were killed.

Click here for map of Gaza Strip

Israeli Apache helicopters targeted a small group of people the Israeli army said was responsible for attacks on a neighbouring Jewish settlement, killing two men.

Mourners attend the funerals of four men killed in Israeli attacks on Khan Yunis
Emotions run high at funerals in Khan Yunis
As people came into the street to investigate, firing against the settlement resumed.

The helicopters returned, sending rockets into the same area and killing one person on the spot. A fourth died in hospital.

All four belonged to the Abu Rish faction, an armed group affiliated to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

The latest violence coincides with a new mediation visit to the region by the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

Mr Solana signalled the EU's toughened stance on Palestinian militants, describing Islamic Jihad and Hamas as "terrorist networks" and demanding that Mr Arafat dismantle them.

The groups defended their own legitimacy and called on their supporters to continue their struggle against Israeli occupation.




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The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Israeli troops are within about 200 yards of Yasser Arafat's headquarters"
See also:

10 Dec 01 | Middle East
EU adds to pressure on Arafat
08 Dec 01 | Middle East
US urged to restrain Israelis
07 Dec 01 | Middle East
Turkish PM says Sharon targets Arafat
05 Dec 01 | Middle East
Mid-East splits Europe and US
04 Dec 01 | Middle East
Outrage at Israeli strikes
04 Dec 01 | Middle East
Arafat's Hamas problem
03 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are Hamas?
03 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are Islamic Jihad?
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