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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 21:13 GMT 22:13 UK
Analysis: Arafat under attack
Yasser Arafat (second right) and his aides
Arafat and his aides are isolated in his compound
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By David Shukman
BBC World Affairs correspondent
line
The attack on Yasser Arafat is meant to cut him off from the outside world rather than kill him - though from the sheer ferocity of the military operation it is not easy to tell.

Over the weekend Israeli troops forced their way into his compound in Ramallah and surrounded his main office building.


When Ariel Sharon talks of exile for Yasser Arafat, he apparently seeks a scenario of a Palestinian people without a leader

He is now isolated on the ground floor - the safest part of the building because it has no windows.

There is no running water and food supplies are low. Palestinian officials say those trapped inside are surviving on one potato a day though the Israelis deny this.

Electricity supplies to the compound were cut but are now restored intermittently.

Israel's strategy

At the same time there has been a major assault on another compound that acts as Mr Arafat's security force headquarters.

Israeli tank outside of Arafat's compound in Ramallah
Israeli troops forced their way into Arafat's Ramallah compound
Militants responsible for terror attacks are said to be hiding inside, but Palestinians sources deny the claim.

And the aim of all this? It seems to be to undermine the Palestinian leader as much as possible - to humiliate him, punish him for his alleged support for terrorism and isolate him from future decision-making.

When Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon talks of exile for Yasser Arafat, he apparently seeks a scenario of a Palestinian people without a leader.

The trigger for this current drastic action is the sudden wave of suicide bombings.

Israel has been shaken by attacks in its midst - ordinary people suffering during their ordinary lives.


The longer this massive operation goes on, the more the Palestinians believe they are the victims of ruthless oppression and even all-out war

Forty-one people have been killed in the past week alone. Public opinion has hardened and the government has duly responded.

So what exactly is it trying to do? The first aim is to round up suspect terrorists - 700 of them by Tuesday evening.

By moving forces into key parts of the West Bank, the longer-term objective is to root out the terrorist networks - the people and organisations planning to strike at Israel and at the Jewish settlements in this occupied land.

Dark days

Yet the longer this massive operation goes on, the more the Palestinians believe they are the victims of ruthless oppression and even all-out war. Amid these dark hours, what chance is there of peace?

Nine years ago it all looked very promising. Under the Oslo peace agreement, Palestinians and Israelis were meant to live in harmony.

Israelis check Palestinian detainees
Israel has rounded up many Palestinian militants
Mr Arafat shook hands with the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But the deal unravelled and now each side accuses the other of breaking it.

Now the only real plan on the table is from Saudi Arabia. Under this proposal, Israel would withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967.

That would mean giving up all the settlements - not an easy option for any Israeli politician.

In return Arab countries would establish normal relations with Israel.

It is possible that because of this crisis there will be international pressure to get talks going again. But each attack creates new bitterness, less tolerance and less hope for a peace deal.

See also:

02 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel considers exiling Arafat
02 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
02 Apr 02 | Middle East
Caught in Ramallah's rage
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