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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 00:14 GMT
Powell condemns 'war on Palestinians'
Israeli PM Sharon and Defence Minister Eliezer
Ariel Sharon (left) pledged to deliver "pain blows"
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has strongly criticised Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as Israel launched more attacks against Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

If you think you can solve the problem by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed - I don't know that leads us anywhere

Colin Powell
Mr Powell told a congressional committee in Washington that he disagreed with Mr Sharon's plan to use Israel's military might to force the Palestinians back to negotiations.

The secretary of state balanced his comments with further criticism of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who he said should do more to end the bloodshed.

But another day of violence has left at least 12 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers dead, as Israeli air, ground and naval forces pounded Gaza and the West Bank.

Colin Powell at US Congress on Wednesday
Mr Powell had harsh words for both sides
An Israeli helicopter fired a missile near Mr Arafat's West Bank headquarters while he was meeting an envoy from the European Union.

EU envoy Miguel Moratinos had been meeting Mr Arafat at the Palestinian leader's headquarters in Ramallah when the missile exploded 15 metres (50ft) away, Palestinian officials said.

Mr Moratinos's spokesman, Javier Sancho, said: "We are not now making any comment. We need to gather more information, but we were there, yes."

Israel warned

BBC State Department correspondent John Leyne says this was Mr Powell's most explicit criticism of the Israeli leader to date.

A Palestinian rally in Gaza City
The Intifada
  • Began September 2000
  • Palestinian frustration at peace process boiled over when Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif
  • About 1,000 Palestinians and 300 Israelis killed in 17 months of violence
  • Peace negotiations stalled, new Saudi proposal raises some hopes

    See also:
      Q&A: Cycle of violence   In Depth section

  • "If you declare war on the Palestinians and think you can solve the problem by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed - I don't know that leads us anywhere," Mr Powell told the congressional hearing.

    The Palestinian leader, for his part, "has to do more, can do more, must do more".

    Israeli commentators say Mr Sharon has been issuing some of his most aggressive statements in recent days.

    On Monday he told a parliamentary committee: "We have to deal [the Palestinians] very painful blows, continuously, until they understand that they won't achieve anything with terror."

    Further bloodshed

    Most of the Palestinian deaths on Wednesday came about as Israeli tanks and troops rolled into Gaza, which was also bombarded from the sea and air.

    The Israeli navy is also reported to have fired on Palestinian police buildings at the southern entrance to Gaza City.

    Seven Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers died during the attacks on Gaza.

    Israel said one soldier died at Abassan and another in an ambush on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

    The army said it had destroyed three homes belonging to Palestinian militants in Abassan and arrested 27 suspects.

    Five more Palestinians died in separate incidents, including two who were apparently trying to plant a bomb and two others at Israeli military checkpoints.

    A Hamas activist - named as Abdel Rahman Ghadal - was killed in an explosion at his Gaza City home.

    Israeli troops escort prisoner in Gaza
    Israeli troops say they are pursuing suspected militants
    Announcements over mosque loudspeakers blamed his death on an Israeli missile strike.

    In Gaza City, Israeli warplanes destroyed the Palestinian national security headquarters.

    It appears they narrowly missed a meeting of Palestinian intelligence officials.

    The latest Israeli operations come after a rocket attack from Gaza on the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Tuesday which injured two Israeli children.

    Israel has said it views the use of the unguided Qassam-2 rockets as a grave escalation of the conflict and has pledged to stamp it out.

    Israel has stepped up military operations since the weekend when Palestinian suicide and gun attacks left 20 people dead.

    The BBC's Gillian Ni Cheallaigh
    "Mr Powell sympathised with the suffering caused to Palestinians"
    US Secretary of State Colin Powell
    "Mr Arafat has to do more and he can do more"
    Dennis Ross, Former US special envoy
    "Both sides need to take a step back"
    Judith Kipper, Council on Foreign Relations
    "The rhetoric may be changing but I'm not sure the policy is changing"
    See also:

    06 Mar 02 | Middle East
    Bush pledges Mid-East peace moves
    05 Mar 02 | Middle East
    Head to head: Mid-East violence surges
    04 Mar 02 | Media reports
    Israeli cabinet clash over Arafat
    03 Mar 02 | Middle East
    Israel on the defensive
    06 Mar 02 | Middle East
    Israeli unease as casualties mount
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