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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 22:29 GMT 23:29 UK
Arafat says elections after pull-out
House destroyed in Friday's raid in Jenin
Israeli says the Jenin incursion was a pinpoint attack
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has said fresh presidential and parliamentary elections can only be held after Israel withdraws from Palestinian territory.

Mr Arafat has agreed to hold elections as part of the reform of his Palestinian Authority, but on Friday, he said there could be no free elections while Israeli forces continued to occupy Palestinian land.

The Palestinian leader has come under pressure to reform the PA
Mr Arafat has sent mixed signals
The Palestinian leader did not make it clear whether he was referring to a full Israeli withdrawal.

However, one of his aides, Nabil Shaath, later said the Palestinian demand was for Israeli troops to pull out to positions held before the current outbreak of fighting in September 2000.

Mr Arafat's comments came after Israeli troops with tanks raided the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin, scene of some of the fiercest fighting between Israelis and Palestinians last month.

Election doubts

Asked by a reporter, "When do you think there will be free elections for Palestinians", Mr Arafat replied: "As soon as we will finish this occupation [of] this land".

His remarks come a day after the Palestinian parliament called for municipal elections later this year, followed by parliamentary and presidential elections next year.

Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa
Arab nations say the uprising will continue until Israel stops its incursions
The BBC's Clare Marshall, in Jerusalem, says it is understood that some preparations are already under way for these elections to be held within the next six months.

Mr Arafat has been under pressure to reform the PA and hold elections from the United States and Israel as well as from his own people and the Arab world.

Without commenting directly on Mr Arafat's latest remarks, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US remained committed to supporting Palestinian efforts to build "strong democratic, transparent and accountable Palestinian institutions in preparation for Palestinian statehood".

Jenin incursion

On Friday, Israeli forces killed at least four Palestinians in separate incidents.

  • An armed Palestinian was shot dead after infiltrating the West Bank Jewish settlement of Beit El.

  • An Israeli Arab woman was shot dead north of Tulkarm in the West Bank when soldiers opened fire on her car.

  • A seven-year-old boy who was killed during a stone throwing incident at Askar refugee camp near Nablus.

  • In the Gaza Strip, an armed Palestinian was killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers while he tried to enter the Jewish settlement of Dugit, the Israeli military said.

An Israeli spokeswoman described Israel's incursion in Jenin and the town's refugee camp as a pinpoint operation aimed at arresting suspected militants.

The raid began in the early hours of Friday and Israeli forces later withdrew.

There are no reports of casualties. About 40 Palestinians were arrested.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa condemned the incursion.

"The Palestinian intifada will not stop so long as Israeli violence continues," Mr Moussa said.

The spiritual leader of the militant Palestinian group, Hamas, said attacks against Israelis would continue.

"You cannot talk about ceasing attacks while your enemy is pursuing its incursions and its killings of civilians everywhere," Sheikh Ahmed Yassin told Reuters news agency.

The BBC's Claire Marshall
"[There is] confusion over the possible future Palestinian elections"
See also:

16 May 02 | Middle East
Palestinian MPs call for elections
15 May 02 | Middle East
Arafat commits to Palestinian reform
08 May 02 | Middle East
UN condemns Israel over Jenin
03 May 02 | Middle East
'No Jenin massacre' says rights group
29 Apr 02 | Middle East
Expert weighs up Jenin 'massacre'
20 Apr 02 | Middle East
Tragedy at Jenin, says US envoy
12 Apr 02 | Middle East
The battle for Jenin
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