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'Mission impossible': No U.N. vote on Mideast

bulldozers
Israeli army bulldozers destroy the transmitter and generators of Voice of Palestine Radio Thursday.  


(CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council adjourned a closed-door session in New York Thursday without taking action on a Palestinian-backed resolution calling for international observers in the Middle East.

It came as the U.N. envoy to the Middle East, Terje Roed-Larsen, described the chances of getting the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table quickly as "a mission impossible."

Israel severed communication with the Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat Thursday morning, declaring him "irrelevant," then unleashed a string of punishing attacks on Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza throughout the day Thursday.

The attacks continued the escalation of violence in the nearly 2-week-old cycle of attack and retaliation that began when Palestinian suicide bombers killed 25 Israelis in Jerusalem and Haifa the weekend of December 1-2.

Israel has responded to mortar attacks and terrorist bombings with airstrikes against the Palestinian Authority and other targets in the West Bank and Gaza.

Despite Israel's severing of ties with Arafat, the Bush administration said it would continue to deal with the Palestinian leader.

"He still has that authority, that mantle of leadership given to him by the Palestinian people, and we will continue to work with him," said Secretary of State Colin Powell.

VIDEO
Israeli forces retaliate for a bus bombing and the government cuts ties to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. CNN's Chris Burns reports (December 13)

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U.S. envoy to the Mideast, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, and U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Thursday about the Israeli government's decision and the implications of the move.

Following the meeting senior State Department officials said they were talking to Zinni about "next steps" and that word on what he planned to do next could come as early as Friday.

Israeli strikes continue

In attacks Thursday evening, Israeli F-16 fighter jets and helicopter gunships struck Palestinian Authority targets in Gaza City. Officials at Shifa hospital said 15 people, all Palestinian police, were wounded.

In the West Bank, Palestinian police said Israeli helicopters fired six missiles in Ramallah and at a Fatah office in Jenin. The Palestine Red Crescent Society said there were no injuries in Ramallah.

Earlier Thursday, Israeli tanks rolled into the Palestinian territories, taking up positions about 200 meters from Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah.

Israeli missiles also hit the tower and transmission facilities of Voice of Palestine Radio and attacked other targets in Gaza and the West Bank. Hours later, tanks and bulldozers flattened the transmitter and generators of the radio station.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said a Palestinian woman was killed in Gaza and a Palestinian policeman died of his wounds in Ramallah.

Palestinian hospital sources said 15-year-old Ahmed Almari was shot dead in a clash with Israeli soldiers after the funeral of two suicide bombers. Seven other Palestinians were moderately wounded.

Israeli troops also raided the West Bank home of Marwan Barghouti, his wife said. Barghouti is a leader in the Fatah movement, Arafat's political organization, and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Fatah is the mainstream faction and Palestinian nationalist movement of the Palestine Liberation Organization.



 
 
 
 


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