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Arafat vows continued uprising against Israel

March 29, 2001
Web posted at: 8:51 PM EST (0151 GMT)

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3 Palestinians killed overnight

Bush urges restraint from both sides

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NETZARIM, Israel (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said on Thursday that the Palestinian flag would fly above the walls of Jerusalem before Israeli military strikes could stop the six-month-old uprising against the Jewish state.

Arafat spoke a day after Israel launched a military response to a series of bombings in Israeli territory.

"It's an escalation," Arafat said of air and tank strikes in Palestinian territories on Wednesday that targeted facilities associated with his bodyguard unit, called Force 17. "They are preparing to escalate for the next 100 days ... against our people, against our institutions, against our houses, against our universities, against our everything."

But, he said, "The Palestinian people will continue with force and determination until the Palestinian flag is raised above the walls, mosques and churches of Jerusalem, the capital of the future Palestinian state, whether (people) like it or not."

The Israeli army launched attacks against Force 17 targets in Gaza and in the West Bank town of Ramallah, killing one member of the elite guard. Force 17, Israeli officials say, has been implicated by intelligence reports in recent violence, including a pair of deadly attacks over the past three days.

Two Israeli teen-agers were killed in an apparent suicide bomb attack near the Israeli border with the West Bank on Wednesday, and a 10-month-old girl was killed by sniper fire in a Jewish enclave of the West Bank town of Hebron on Tuesday.

The military wing of the militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, and another in Jerusalem on Monday that left more than 30 people injured, and said more such bombers were in the wings.

A senior Israeli source, speaking after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's security cabinet met on Wednesday, said more attacks would follow.

"There will not be a policy of reaction to attacks, rather a consistent and stable policy over time of a war on terror initiated by Israel," the source said. "A decision was taken for the carrying out of more attacks in the coming days."

3 Palestinians killed overnight

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN that Arafat's seaside home in Gaza was hit during Wednesday's attack.

"The house was damaged. The extent of the damage is not yet known. It also is not known if anyone was injured inside the house," Erakat said.

Arafat was in Amman, Jordan, at the time, where the Arab summit wrapped up. His wife, Soha, and daughter, Zahwa, have been in France since the current round of fighting broke out on September 28.

The Israeli army, however, denied that Arafat's home was targeted.

Hostility between the Israelis and Palestinians, at odds since Israel's inception in 1948, spilled into the open again last fall after the collapse of peace talks over the summer. Since the first clash, at a holy site claimed by Jews and Muslims alike in disputed east Jerusalem, about 456 people have died as a direct result of the conflict.

At least 373 Palestinians have been killed. Israeli officials say that 69 Israeli Jews, 13 Israeli Arabs and a German have also died in that time.

Three more Palestinians were added to the number in overnight fighting on Thursday. One, a Palestinian man wearing a Force 17 uniform, was killed trying to attack the Jewish settlement of Netzarim, Israeli officials said.

The other two were teen-age boys killed during a clash between rock- and firebomb-throwing Palestinians and armed Israeli soldiers, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Eight more were wounded.

Bush urges restraint from both sides

U.S. President George W. Bush -- who has maintained a diplomatic distance from the Mideast conflict since taking office on January 20 -- urged both the Palestinians and Israelis to find a solution to the violence.

"This tragic cycle of incitement, provocation and violence has gone on far too long," Bush said during a news conference in Washington. "Both sides must take important steps to calm the situation now."

Bush called on the Palestinian Authority to publicly condemn the violence, arrest those who carry out the violence and to resume security contacts with Israel.

"The signal to the Palestinians is stop the violence. I can't make it any more clear," Bush said.

The Israeli government, the president said, must exercise restraint in its military response to the violence, and take steps, such as lifting closures and removing checkpoints, to ease the lives of Palestinians.

"Our goal is to encourage a series of reciprocal and parallel steps on both sides that will halt the escalating violence," he said.

Toward that end, Bush said he would meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday and with Jordanian King Abdullah II the following week "to seek their help in diffusing the tensions."

The president also said that Secretary of State Colin Powell would speak with Arafat later on Thursday by telephone.

He rejected claims that his administration was too removed from the Mideast crisis, saying that he and his staff were "on the phone" frequently with the officials involved.

But, Bush said, no peace between Israelis and Palestinians could be lasting unless both parties agreed to all the terms. That, he said, was the reason he vetoed a U.N. resolution this week calling for international peacekeepers in the region.

The Israelis object to the deployment of peacekeepers, saying it would reward the Palestinians for violence.

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U.N. to resume Mideast talks

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office
Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Palestinian National Authority
Israel Defense Forces

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