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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 10:41 GMT
Israel demands 'actions not words'
An Israeli TV salesman watches Yasser Arafat's speech
Israel reacted to Mr Arafat's speech with scepticism
Israel and the United States have called on Yasser Arafat to follow up his words with actions, after the Palestinian leader gave a speech pledging to rein in militants and calling for a return to peace negotiations.

But a few hours later, Israeli troops shot dead a member of the militant Islamic group Hamas outside his home in the West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinian security officials said.

There's a whole series of activities which are in truth terror activities, and part of these activities are receptions

Israeli Minister Uzi Landau
In a separate development, Israeli police detained the top Palestinian official in East Jerusalem, Sari Nusseibeh, for about an hour.

Mr Nusseibeh was taken in for questioning on Monday after ignoring an Israeli ban on a reception involving foreign diplomats for the feast of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Israeli Public Security Minister Uzi Landau said that allowing the Mr Nusseibeh to host the reception would have "contributed to the loss of our sovereignty in Jerusalem".

He added: "There's a whole series of activities which are in truth terror activities, and part of these activities are receptions."

Sari Nusseibeh leaving Israeli police station
Nusseibeh is considered a leading Palestinian moderate
The BBC's James Reynolds in Jerusalem says Mr Nusseibeh is seen as one of the leading moderates among the Palestinian leadership.

He took over the Jerusalem portfolio for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in October following the death of Faisal al-Husseini earlier this year.

Israeli officials stressed that Mr Arafat's self-rule Palestinian Authority was not allowed to conduct any activities in Jerusalem under the interim peace accords whose collapse in 2000 presaged the current round of violence.

Reaction to Arafat's speech

On Sunday night in a speech also marking the Muslim Eid, Mr Arafat said he "renewed his call to completely halt any activities, especially suicide attacks which we have always condemned".

Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, responded by saying that Israel expected the Palestinian leader to "dismantle the suicide bombers' assembly line."

"Don't make declarations. Start making arrests, start doing what you promised," Mr Gissin said.

The United States echoed Israel's response with White House spokesman Ari Fleischer saying: "Concrete action... (is) what will be measured and that's what the president will wait and see."

The United Nations Middle East envoy, Terje Roed Larsen, was more upbeat, saying the speech was one of the most important Mr Arafat had ever given and marked a potential turning point in the search for peace.

He said that in the previous 24 hours there had been significant developments on the ground, with Palestinian security forces closing down scores of organisations linked with "terrorist" attacks.

The leaders of Jordan, Egypt and France also welcomed Mr Arafat's speech.

'Unjust war'

Mr Arafat's speech also called on Israel to return to the negotiating table.

He said the Israeli Government was waging an "unjust" war, but that the Palestinians would not be humiliated.

Mr Arafat said Israel was using the suicide attacks by militants as an excuse to launch a "brutal" war.

Let us go back to the negotiating table ... and stop immediately these inhumane operations against our people

Yasser Arafat
"I know what Sharon is aiming at," he said, accusing the Israeli leader of wanting "an escalation" of the violence.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Jerusalem says it was the strongest appeal he has made so far in this intifada.

It was his first address since Israel cut ties with him last week and stationed tanks outside his offices in Ramallah.

In the 25-minute speech, Mr Arafat urged his people to take into account the changed climate following the 11 September attacks on the United States. He also stressed the importance of national unity.

The Palestinian leader's speech followed two weeks of sustained bombardment of Palestinian targets and incursions by Israeli forces after suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.

The BBC's James Reynolds
"Israeli forces will continue to arrest militants and sometimes they will do it violently"
Daniel Shek, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman
"What Sari Nusseibeh did was not legal"
Salah Abdel Shafi, Palestinian economist
"The arrest was a clear provocation"
See also:

16 Dec 01 | Middle East
Arafat pleads for talks with Israel
16 Dec 01 | Middle East
Palestinian police shut out militants
15 Dec 01 | Middle East
US blocks Mid-East observers
13 Dec 01 | Middle East
Palestinian leader's house raided
13 Dec 01 | Media reports
Palestinian radio hits back at Israel
13 Dec 01 | Middle East
US and EU to maintain Arafat link
12 Dec 01 | Middle East
Arafat says Sharon has him marked
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