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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Arafat defiant after HQ raid
Palestinians clamber over a car crushed against a doorway by Israeli armour
Israel was sending a strong message to Yasser Arafat
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has responded with defiance after Israeli forces stormed his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah, demolishing buildings and firing tank shells.


I call on all the world to see this fascism and racism against the Palestinian leadership and Palestinian people

Yasser Arafat
Mr Arafat was speaking after Israel tanks and troops ended a six-hour raid on his compound in response to Wednesday's suicide attack in northern Israel.

The Palestinian leader emerged from his compound on Thursday flashing the victory sign and promising the Israeli raid would "increase the steadfastness of our people".

"I call on all the world to see this racism and this fascism," he said. "They try to say that they can defeat us. Nobody can defeat the Palestinian people."

Two of Mr Arafat's security staff were killed in the raid and inspections of the damage showed a tank shell or rocket had punched a hole in Mr Arafat's bedroom about 1.5 metres (five feet) from where he said he was meant to have been sleeping.

Israel has blamed Mr Arafat for being directly responsible for suicide attacks such as the one on Wednesday which killed 17 people, including 13 soldiers.

Yasser Arafat with photo of himself and daughter
Arafat holds up a picture of his daughter in his ruined quarters
But denying that Mr Arafat was the army's target, Israeli spokesman Captain Jacob Dallal said: "If there had been any intention of harming Arafat, it would not have been a problem."

The Bush administration has renewed its criticism of Mr Arafat following the suicide bombing - carried out by Islamic Jihad using a car packed with explosives - but officials are reported to be concerned about Israeli forces attacking his compound.

Associated Press, quoting a senior US official, said Israel had not informed the US before it struck in Ramallah, and officials were concerned about the possibility of Israeli retaliation that "goes beyond legitimate security interests".

Israeli forces also raided Jenin, where Wednesday's bomber came from, and tanks are currently reported to be firing on targets there from outside the city, having withdrawn.

Buildings destroyed

Journalists entering Mr Arafat's compound on Wednesday reported extensive damage, with sections of the exterior wall and some offices demolished.

A column of about 50 Israeli military vehicles has returned to Israeli army bases on the edge of Ramallah.

Enlarge image Click here to enlarge map
Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said the raid aimed "to focus responsibility on the behaviour of the Palestinian Authority for terror in general and the current wave in particular, against which the PA and its head do not do enough to stop".

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke says that Israel will feel it has made a strong point without significantly escalating the intensity of its military operations in the West Bank.

But for the Palestinians, our correspondent says, this will be regarded as another gross and unjust violation of their sovereignty.

In March, Israeli tanks entered Mr Arafat's compound and surrounded his office, trapping the Palestinian leader inside a few rooms without a water supply or electricity for more than a month.

Diplomatic efforts

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delayed by one day his visit to Washington to hold more talks on the Middle East situation with President George Bush.

Megiddo attack scene
The bus was hurled across the road by the force of the blast
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, also on a visit to Washington, was due to meet administration officials on Thursday and Mr Bush on Friday.

Mr Mubarak is trying to press the US to recognise a Palestinian state on the basis of the pre-1967 borders.

Reports say Washington is considering launching a peace plan that would set a timetable for the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

Correspondents say Mr Sharon is keen to avoid being boxed in by a timetable set by the US or a peace process that requires him to make territorial concessions.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Orla Guerin reports from Ramallah
"America is losing patience with Yasser Arafat"
Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian activist
"The truth here is that Yasser Arafat is simply a prisoner, like all of us"
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Arye Mekel
"We are not destoying his infrastructure, we're trying to deal with terrorists"

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06 Jun 02 | Middle East
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