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The BBC's Mike Donkin
"The Israelis have all but locked Gaza out from the rest of the world"
 real 28k

The BBC's Greg Barrow
"Israel is taking this conflict into a new stage"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 01:54 GMT
Rockets blast Arafat offices
Fatah office in Ramallah
Fatah's office in Ramallah was badly damaged in the attack
Israeli helicopter gunships have fired rockets at offices of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement in several locations in the West Bank and Gaza.

The assault is reported to be the heaviest since rocket attacks first brought an escalation of the conflict earlier in October, though there are no reports of casualties.


I turn to Arafat: You should know you will achieve nothing through violence

Ehud Barak

The BBC's Hilary Andersson says that the conflict seems to be entering a new stage in which Israel is prepared to unleash heavy weapons on a daily basis.

Targets were hit in the West Bank towns of Nablus and Ramallah, as was a building used by Mr Arafat's Force 17 militia in Khan Yunis, Gaza.

Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh said the attacks were intended as a warning for Palestinians "since (they) are beginning to wage something that approximates a guerrilla war".

Over the weekend Fatah had called for an escalation of the Palestinian protests.

Government survives

Earlier on Monday Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak defended his minority government at the first session of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, since the Palestinian uprising broke out a month ago.

Chart showing Knesset breakdown
In a bad-tempered opening debate, Mr Barak told deputies that peace with the Palestinians was still possible but he had no partner "who is ready for compromise at this time".

Mr Barak has failed to form a coalition with the right-wing opposition Likud party, but his government is expected to survive for a month thanks to temporary support from the ultra-Orthodox Shas in the light of the current "national emergency".

Mr Barak currently controls a 30-member coalition in the 120-seat Knesset, far less than the broad-based 68-member majority he built after his landslide election victory in May 1999.

Walkout

Responding to the prime minister's speech, Likud leader Ariel Sharon criticised Mr Barak for making Israel "appear weak" by continuing to seek peace through the so-called Oslo peace-process.

Barak in Knesset
Barak's coalition collapsed over his peace position
He said he would join Mr Barak's coalition if he the prime minister abandoned this "mistaken path".

Mr Barak said a window of opportunity was closing for his government's peace negotiations.

He addressed some remarks directly to Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader: "You should know you will achieve nothing through violence.

"You will find us united against violence," he continued.

Both party leaders were heckled repeatedly during their speeches. Some Arab deputies walked out during Mr Barak's in protest against the killing of more than a dozen Israeli Arab citizens in the uprising.

In all about 150 people have been killed in clashes between Palestinian protesters and militiamen and the Israeli army. Fewer than 10 of them have been Israeli Jews.

Escalation

Monday saw the first killings of Jews in Israeli-occupied Arab east Jerusalem since the violence began.

A gunman entered an Israeli Government building and shot two armed security guards in the head. One guard died, the second was in a serious condition.

In a separate development, the body of a Jewish man was found near the Gilo Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem. It was riddled with bullet holes and stab wounds, Israeli police said.

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See also:

30 Oct 00 | Media reports
Barak and Sharon slug it out
12 Oct 00 | Middle East
Israel hits back after killings
29 Oct 00 | Middle East
Fatah vows to fight on
21 Oct 00 | Middle East
UN condemns 'excessive force'
24 Oct 00 | Middle East
Ariel Sharon: Controversial hardliner
30 Oct 00 | Middle East
Shas: Breaking the Israeli mould
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