Arafat calls for cease-fire; Powell cancels trip
TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, condemning a suicide bomb attack that killed 19 people in front of a crowded discotheque Friday, promised Saturday to "exert our utmost efforts" to achieve an "immediate and unconditional" cease-fire with the Israelis.
"I repeat our condemnation of this tragic operation and to all operations that result in the killing of civilians, Israelis or Palestinians," Arafat said. "We will now exert our utmost efforts to stop the bloodshed of our people and the Israeli people and to do all that is needed to achieve an immediate and unconditional, real and effective ceasefire."
Arafat said he and the Palestinian Authority were prepared for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire, although he did not spell out what he was prepared to do.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell canceled a trip to Costa Rica Saturday because of developments in the Middle East. He had planned to travel Sunday to a summit of the Organization of American States in San Jose.
Powell called the attack a "horrible act that ended many innocent lives for no conceivable earthly purpose. This act of terrorism deserves the entire world's strongest condemnation."
He urged Arafat to condemn "this senseless act, declare an immediate and total cease-fire, and take every action necessary to bring those responsible to justice."
President Bush used similar words to describe the "heinous" attack against "innocent civilians," saying in a statement that it "illustrates the urgent need for an immediate, unconditional cessation of violence. I call upon Chairman Arafat to condemn this act and to call for an immediate cease-fire."
Powell joined Bush in extending their prayers and sympathy to the victims and their families.
In an interview with CNN, Palestinian Cabinet member Saeb Erakat called for action. "There are massive things to be done in terms of ending of the crisis, lifting the siege, cessation of settlement activities," he told CNN. "In terms of the resumption of negotiations, what needs to be done now is exerting maximum efforts in order to ensure that the timeline is in place to start the implementation immediately."
"I do think that Arafat gave some very, very positive statements today, which I do hope that the government of Israel will take note of," said Terje Larson, U.N. envoy to the Middle East.
"I think he's stretching out the hand," Larson said. "However, it is now important not only to watch words, but to look at deeds. Words have to be followed by deeds on both sides. Both sides have now committed themselves to the Mitchell Report. Arafat did so once again today and both sides have called for a cease-fire."
But Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was not impressed by Arafat's statement. "I must say that we are tired and sick of his declarations. We are still waiting for some of his actions, some of his steps that he should take in order to stop the violence, the terror and the incitement that he instigated eight months ago."
After a meeting Saturday of Israel's security Cabinet, the Cabinet secretary said in a statement Israel would take all necessary measures to defend its citizens.
There was no indication whether that meant, as some ministers have intimated, that Israel's self-declared policy of restraint is over. Palestinian leaders have derided the policy as nothing more than a ploy.
Israel's prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister were planning to meet again Saturday to weigh possible options.
Hospitals in Tel Aviv were jammed with relatives of those killed and injured by the bomb, which was made more lethal by the addition of nails and screws, which sprayed into the crowd.
By late morning, all the dead had been identified. Police forensic investigators were scouring the scene for clues to the identity of the bomber, who died in the attack. The discotheque was popular among young Russian immigrants.
One person died Saturday evening, bringing the death toll to 19. At least 115 others were wounded in the blast, 10 of them seriously, 22 moderately and 54 lightly, hospital sources said.
Israeli television reported the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, which Israeli police said inflicted the highest death toll of any single incident since violence in the region resumed eight months ago.
Sharon was scheduled to leave for Europe but that trip might be postponed in light of the latest attack.
Gissin told CNN that despite Friday's attack on young people at the nightclub, Israel remains "committed to the cease-fire ... committed to peace."
But, he said, "you can rest assured that those who perpetrated the act, and the Palestinian Authority, which is fully responsible for this act, will pay the full price. We'll decide on the time and place, and the method, to bring about an end to this cycle of hostilities."
The army Friday ordered a closure of the West Bank and Gaza and requested all Palestinian workers with permits to work inside Israel to go home immediately.
Hassan Abdel Rahman, the Palestinian Liberation Organization's representative to the United States, told CNN "We regret the loss of civilian life, both Israeli and Palestinian, but this attack happened in Tel Aviv, and Tel Aviv is under Israeli security control and not Palestinian."
"The Palestinian Authority cannot be held responsible for the actions of one man," he said. "We hope that the loss of these civilians in Tel Aviv does not lead to the loss of Palestinian civilian lives in Gaza or Ramallah."
Many other top Palestinian officials were in Jerusalem for the funeral of Faisal Husseini, 60, a moderate Palestinian who died Thursday of a heart attack while visiting Kuwait.
The bombing took place around 11:30 p.m. at the Dolphinarium Beach, near Tel Aviv's hotel district. The suicide bomber apparently got into a line of people waiting to get into a discotheque on the beach.
The area was crowded at the beginning of the weekend, as young people stayed out late in the warm temperatures.
"Again, unfortunately, although we have declared unilaterally on a cease-fire, Mr. Arafat and his people are continuing to have these terrible terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli citizens," Israeli Cabinet minister Danny Naveh told CNN.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Arafat does not want peace with Israel, he wants peace without Israel.
"Israel has to defend itself. We are facing a terrorist onslaught," he said. "Yasser Arafat is orchestrating a terrorist war against Israel."
The bombing was one of many in recent weeks. Sunday, a car bomb exploded in central Jerusalem in an area of discotheques and nightclubs called the Russian Compound.
On May 18, a suicide bomber with the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas set off a blast outside a shopping mall in the Israeli city of Netanya that killed five Israelis as well as the bomber. The Israeli government retaliated by sending F-16 fighter planes against Palestinian positions, killing 18 people.
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