Arafat pressured to enforce cease-fire amid scattered gunfights
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- There were scattered incidents of Israeli-Palestinian violence Monday, but cease-fires declared by both sides appeared to be holding.
Israel has not retaliated for Friday's suicide bombing that killed 21 people, while international diplomats continued to pressure Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat to enforce the cease-fire.
Nabil Sha'ath, a member of the Palestinian Cabinet, said Arafat was doing all he could to make the cease-fire work.
"He has not only declared a cease-fire that is unconditional and immediate and effective, but he has really in the last 48 hours ... done everything possible to make it stick by bringing all his military leaders together, making instructions, by re-deploying whatever he can short of moving people because the Israelis are still making it impossible for his forces to move from one place to the other. He is really doing his best," said Sha'ath.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he is giving diplomacy a chance and expressed hope that the deadliest attack against Israeli targets in eight months of fighting may help to produce a lasting cease-fire.
"The situation is not simple," said Sharon. "You have to see the whole picture. That responsibility is on my shoulders. I want to tell you restraint is an element of strength."
But Ra'anan Gissin, a senior adviser to Sharon, said so far the Palestinian efforts had been "insufficient."
He said Israel's demand is "a complete cessation of hostilities and that has not happened." He said Arafat was apparently attempting to "gain some tactical victory but really not implement the cease-fire."
However, Gissin said that with the arrival of U.S. CIA Director George Tenet and new meetings of Israeli and Palestinian security officials the situation might improve.
At Rafah in southern Gaza, there were continuing exchanges of small-arms fire between Palestinian positions and Israeli soldiers. It was not immediately clear what triggered the firefight.
Near the Jewish settlement of Barkan in the West Bank, an Israeli civilian was injured Monday by a roadside bomb, Israeli army officials said.
According to the army, the injuries were not serious, and the person was treated at the scene and released.
On Sunday, two mortar shells were fired in Gaza by Palestinians at the Jewish settlement of Neve-Dekalim, Israeli military officials said.
Despite the ongoing violence, there was relative calm in the midst of intense diplomatic pressure. The number of incidents and the intensity of the violence was down.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer held a second meeting with Arafat on Sunday night at Arafat's West Bank headquarters and urged the Palestinian leader to enforce a cease-fire.
"If, indeed, we want to avoid a tragic confrontation, a prerequisite is that the Palestinian side grasp and understand -- and my impression is that it has grasped and understood -- that there is no more room for maneuvering," Fischer told reporters.
Dore Gold, an adviser to Sharon, offered a wait-and-see attitude.
"We are giving one more chance for peace at present by seeing whether Mr. Arafat will follow through his cease-fire commitment," said. "Right now the evidence is not very promising."
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called on Arafat on Sunday to match his promises of a cease-fire with "action on the ground" and exert greater control over militant Palestinian factions.
While Arafat has condemned the bombing, adding that he would do everything he could to stop such violence, a statement saying the intifada should continue was released by 13 Palestinian factions, including the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups; Arafat's Fatah faction; the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
But Sha'ath said the Fatah faction supported Arafat's cease-fire declaration.
"He has the full backing of Fatah," Sha'ath said. "He also has definitely the full support of his security apparatus, and I think he'll have to demonstrate to people two things.
"One, that he seriously means business when he says he wants to stop all fire, but that he will continue very ardently with the help of Mr. Powell and the United States and Europe to implement all of the Mitchell plan that promises to freeze all settlement activities, implement all unimplemented parts of the peace process, and move towards a negotiated settlement on a permanent basis, and I think with these on hand he can also tell his people, 'I have a political light at the end of the tunnel,' and I think he will get their support."
Meanwhile, Israelis continued to bury the victims of Friday night's bombing, most of them Russian emigrant teen-age girls.
Although there has been no official public claim of responsibility for the attack, Palestinian and Israeli sources told CNN on Sunday that 22-year-old Mohammed Saeed al-Hotary of the West Bank town of Qalqilya was the bomber.
Israeli sources said al-Hotary was a member of the Islamic Jihad, but Palestinian sources have not verified that.
In addition, leaflets said to be written by the militant wing of Hamas said the bombing was carried out in the name of Hamas. But CNN has received no independent confirmation of that claim directly from the group itself.
CNN Correspondents Jerrold Kessel and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.
|Back to the top|