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Sunday, 10 March, 2002, 11:16 GMT
Israel destroys Arafat's Gaza HQ
Charred remains of Yasser Arafat's HQ
Arafat's offices were gutted in the rocket strike
Israeli helicopters and gunboats have totally destroyed the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza.

The operation came early on Sunday, hours after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 11 and injured more than 50 at a busy cafe in West Jerusalem.

We strongly condemn this latest outburst of violence

US State Department spokesman
Two Israelis were also killed and 50 injured in another attack in the northern coastal town of Netanya, when two Palestinian gunmen opened fire at passers-by.

The US Government has called on both sides to try and end the violence, which a spokesman said underlines the importance of this week's visit to the region by special envoy Anthony Zinni.

Israel's security cabinet of senior ministers was meeting on Sunday to consider a wider response to the violence.

The Israeli army said another Palestinian was killed after he wounded two Israelis at a settlement in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Arabs are staging a general strike to express their solidarity with the Palestinians. Shops, markets and schools run by Israeli Arabs were closed down and public transport was reduced to a minimum.

Envoy's visit

An Israeli Government spokesman said the attacks were intended to sabotage General Zinni's tour.

Moment Cafe, Jerusalem
There was panic in the Jerusalem cafe after the bomb went off

"What Arafat is looking for tonight is a regional deterioration in order to have the whole region involved in a regional war and Israel will not let him do it," said Foreign Ministry official Gideon Meir.

For their part, the Palestinians accused Israel of ratcheting up the conflict and welcomed the return of General Zinni to the region.

"What the Sharon government is doing is really eroding the ability of the Palestinian Authority to function," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme.

"We're urging the intervention of a third party and that's why we welcome the immediate coming back of General Anthony Zinni," he said.

Symbol in ruins

Yasser Arafat's compound has come under heavy bombardment before, but this was the heaviest yet with 30 rockets, delivered by helicopters and naval gunboats in less than 30 minutes.

In Netanya two gunmen opened fire on a main street

The lavishly furnished three-storey building where Mr Arafat used to host foreign dignitaries has been completely destroyed.

It was the main symbol of what was meant to be his embryonic state, built when the Palestinian leader set up administration in Gaza in 1994.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley says that Palestinians will see the Israeli attack as a significant escalation.

Mr Arafat was not in Gaza at the time; he has been confined to Ramallah for the past three months by Israeli forces.

Double attack

For the second successive Saturday, Palestinian attacks targeted Israelis at the end of Sabbath.

In one attack claimed by Islamic militant group Hamas, a 20-year-old Palestinian walked into a cafe and detonated a nail bomb strapped to his body, killing himself and 11 other people.

Earlier on Saturday, two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on passers-by in Netanya, killing two people and wounding at least 35.

Police killed the gunmen after the 15-minute attack claimed by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Mr Arafat's Fatah movement.

The BBC's Paul Wood reports from Jerusalem
"The Israeli govt accuses Arafat of trying to plunge the region into chaos"
Senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat
"The Israeli occupation must end"
Israeli Ambassador to London, Dr Zvi Schtauber
"We seek peace"
See also:

09 Mar 02 | Middle East
Arabs say peace plan in danger
08 Mar 02 | Middle East
In pictures: Mid-East fire and fury
05 Mar 02 | Middle East
Head to head: Mid-East violence surges
08 Mar 02 | Media reports
Israeli media criticise government
03 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel on the defensive
03 Jan 02 | Middle East
Tough times for US Mid-East envoy
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