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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Israel piles pressure on Arafat
Israeli soldier at Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah
Israel's aim to make life unbearable for Yasser Arafat
The Israeli army has pulled down a building next to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's office in his Ramallah compound after a night of protests in which four Palestinians were reported killed.

Demonstrators in Gaza City
Demonstrators took to the streets in several towns
Mr Arafat has been under siege there for three days, and the latest action leaves his entire headquarters - except for his office - in ruins.

Mr Arafat is refusing to give in to the Israeli Government's demands that he surrender 50 suspected militants Israel says are hiding in his offices.

Overnight the army flooded Mr Arafat's quarters with searchlights and demanded on loudspeakers for everyone to come out. Israeli television said the idea was to encourage the Palestinian leader to abandon the building choose exile.

Palestinians inside the compound say the Israelis have cut power and water supplies sporadically and have taken down air conditioning units to make life even more uncomfortable.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has contacted international leaders to ask them to convince Mr Arafat to send the militants out.

But he said there was no intention to harm Mr Arafat, Israeli radio reported.

Four dead

Palestinians came on to the streets in defiance of a curfew in several West Bank and Gaza towns overnight because of rumours that the army was planning to blow up his office.

Four were reported shot dead by Israeli troops.

Palestinian medical sources said two protesters, including a journalist, were killed in Ramallah itself.

The other fatalities reportedly occurred in Nablus and Tulkarm.

Late on Saturday loudspeaker announcements told people in the neighbourhood around Mr Arafat's compound to leave the area immediately.

Aerial photo of Ramallah compound
Israel army plans show the building (shaded red) being targeted
Some people said they have been told to turn off their lights, open their windows and to expect a "big bang".

However, so far there have been no explosions.

Saeb Erekat, a close ally of Mr Arafat, told the BBC that the lives of those left in the compound were "in real danger".

"[Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon will bring the situation to the point of no return," he said.

Israel's Deputy Defence Minister Weizman Shiri said that Mr Arafat could leave the country, but would not be allowed to return.

"If he decides he wants to get out we'll give him a lift," Mr Shiri told army radio on Sunday.

"We'll give him a one-way ticket in a dignified way."

Arafat 'not a target'

A senior Israeli commander told Reuters news agency that the army's mission was to remove everyone from the building.

"The wanted men among them will be arrested," he said. "Anyone who is not wanted for questioning will be released."


Arafat's Ramallah compound
  • Known as the Mutate
  • Built by the British in the 1920s
  • Palestinians took control in 1994 year after Oslo peace accords
  • Largely destroyed by Israeli forces

  • "I hope God will grant me the honour of martyrdom. No one will be handed over to Israel," said Mr Arafat, according to Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of Israel's parliament.

    The latest army action began after suicide bombings in Um al-Fahm and Tel Aviv earlier in the week.

    A defiant Mr Arafat issued a statement on Saturday calling for an end to attacks.

    But he added: "We are ready for peace but not for capitulation, and we will not give up Jerusalem or a grain of our soil which are guaranteed to us by international law."

    Food and water are also said to be in short supply for an estimated 200 people reported to be sheltering on an upper floor.

    International reaction

    France condemned the siege as "unacceptable" and called for it to be halted immediately.

    Denmark, the current president of the European Union, said Israel's actions would neither curb terror nor improve security for its civilians.

    The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, has called on the United States to intervene immediately; and Jordan said Israel's actions threatened the stability of the region.

    The US administration urged Israel not to jeopardise future reforms of Mr Arafat's Palestinian Authority by its actions.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Gillian Ni Cheallaigh
    "Israel is pulling the noose tighter than ever on Arafat"
    Israeli government adviser Dore Gold
    "Whoever engages in terrorism is wrong and has to be stopped"
    Palestinian Nabil Rudeineh from inside the compound
    "The bulldozers are still continuing their mission"

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    See also:

    21 Sep 02 | Middle East
    20 Sep 02 | Media reports
    19 Sep 02 | Middle East
    19 Sep 02 | Middle East
    19 Sep 02 | Middle East
    20 Sep 02 | Scotland
    22 Sep 02 | Middle East
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