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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 15:16 GMT
Israel tightens Arafat siege
An Israeli soldier fires rubber bullets at Palestinian demonstrators outside Mr Arafat's offices
One demonstrator was shot dead by Israeli troops
Israeli forces have closed in on the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, imposing a tight blockade on his Ramallah offices in response to the first attack on civilians inside Israel in a month.

Ramallah city centre
  • Israeli tanks go to within 30 metres of Arafat's headquarters
  • Israeli troops have been stationed less than 1km north of Arafat's headquarters since December
  • Manarah Circle is the main square of the city
  • Tanks have rumbled forward to positions within 30 metres of Mr Arafat's offices, meeting with a shower of stones thrown by dozens of local Palestinian protesters.

    One of the demonstrators, 22-year-old Hani Odeh, was shot by Israeli troops. He died in hospital from bullet wounds to his head and neck, officials said.

    Earlier, Israeli jets had reduced a Palestinian security headquarters to rubble in the West Bank town of Tulkarm, killing one policeman and injuring at least 40 people.

    The raid came hours after a Palestinian attack in the northern city of Hadera, in which a gunman burst into a banqueting hall with an assault rifle, killing six Israelis and injuring 30.

    The Israeli Government blamed Mr Arafat for the attack and vowed to "teach him a lesson".

    Noose tightens

    The Israeli tanks moved into Ramallah before dawn.

    They have surrounded the Palestinian leader's headquarters as well as those of the Fatah faction of which he is the head.

    "The Israeli tanks have practically occupied about 55% of the town now. Thirteen neighbourhoods are under complete curfew," said Mustafa Barghouthi, a Palestinian human rights activist based in Ramallah.

    We are going to respond in a manner which will teach the Palestinian Authority a lesson they will not forget

    Israeli spokesman Avi Pazner
    Mr Arafat has been confined to his headquarters since a series of Palestinian attacks a month ago, but Israel now says it plans to completely isolate him, denying him even foreign visitors.

    The BBC's James Reynolds, who is in Ramallah, says there is a real sense of siege outside Mr Arafat's headquarters.

    Dull explosions can be heard and rubber bullets are being fired.


    The Israeli retaliation came after government spokesman Avi Pazner said: "We hold the Palestinian Authority and Arafat directly responsible for the deaths of those who died in this horrible terrorist attack".

    There will be more successful attacks that will plant fear in the hearts of the Zionist enemies. Revenge is coming

    Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade
    "We are going to respond in a manner which will teach the Palestinian Authority a lesson they will not forget," he said.

    Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat also condemned the Hadera killing and the Israeli retaliation.

    "The Palestinian Authority is asking for urgent international intervention to end [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's military plans to destroy the authority and the peace process with it," Mr Erekat said.

    Both the United States and the European Union condemned the killing at Hadera.

    A US spokesman, Phil Reeker, described it as a "horrific act of terrorism" and urged Mr Arafat to act against militants.

    The current president of the European Union - Spain's Foreign Minister Josep Pique - said it was very important to arrest those responsible and bring them to justice.


    Hundreds of people, who were celebrating a teenage girl's coming-of-age, or Bat Mitzvah, were caught up in the shooting at Hadera.

    Forensic scientists
    It was the first attack inside Israel since December
    The militant al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade - a Palestinian armed group associated with Mr Arafat's Fatah organisation - said the attack was carried out by a Fatah member in revenge for the killing of Fatah member Raed Karmi on Monday. It threatened more such attacks.

    Israel has not confirmed whether its forces killed the attacker.

    The Hadera shooting was the first on civilians inside Israel since Mr Arafat declared a ceasefire on 16 December after a wave of Palestinian suicide attacks.

    Several militant Palestinian groups have announced they are no longer obeying Mr Arafat's ceasefire.

    The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
    "The Palestinian leader is facing renewed Israeli fury"
    Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat
    "It is time for a third party to step in"
    Israeli government spokesman Gideon Meir
    "The Israeli government's responsibility is to protect its people"
    See also:

    18 Jan 02 | Middle East
    'Another dark day in Israel'
    03 Jan 02 | Middle East
    Tough times for US Mideast envoy
    14 Jan 02 | Middle East
    Leading Palestinian killed in blast
    10 Jan 02 | Middle East
    Palestinian militants abandon truce
    14 Jan 02 | Middle East
    Profile: Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade
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