Arafat: Palestinians are 'facing this challenge'
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat once again found himself in the middle of the Middle East crisis Friday, as Israeli tanks shelled and surrounded his Ramallah compound.
Arafat spoke by telephone with CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour about his situation and his reaction to the Israeli military action.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Can you tell me exactly what the conditions are like at your compound right now?
YASSER ARAFAT: Still, you are not following this aggression against the Palestinian people in all of the West Bank and Gaza.
They have divided Gaza into three parts, completely separated it. And (there is) also the aggression and the attack in Ramallah against my headquarters and against the Palestinian people ... all around.
At the same time, they are increasing their forces, their military activities to follow up their aggression against many other places, many other towns, many other cities, many other areas in our Palestinian liberated areas.
AMANPOUR: Can you tell me please, have the rooms that you are sitting in been attacked? Are you under direct physical threat right now?
ARAFAT: It seems that you are not following the TVs all over the world. They have destroyed completely seven of our buildings, completely, around my office and pounded my office with all their armaments. What do you expect?
They have to understand that it is the Palestinian people who are facing this challenge. And we are sure that our people will continue their (steadfastness) in the face of this terrorism.
(Israel) is the real terrorist of the occupation. And especially they are using now all the American weapons against us -- F-15s and F-16s and . . . rockets and bombers and artillery and everything.
AMANPOUR: Do you believe that they are trying to kill you? To harm you?
ARAFAT: What do you expect, by shelling us continuously in the last 24 hours? What do you think? Is it by chance? They're saying that the Americans said that Arafat will not be harmed?
It is a problem of Arafat or the problem of our people -- of our liberty, of our independent Palestinian state, of our peaceful agreement between me and my partner (former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin, who has paid his life for the peace of the brave which we have signed.
And in spite of that, we are in now steadfast to continue with the peace of the brave that I have signed with my partner Rabin.
But we have to remember that my partner, Rabin, is now (buried) in Israel. We are continuing with the peace process, with the majority of the Israeli people.
AMANPOUR: Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken to you, I understand. He has also spoken publicly. He called on you to rein in the violence. What do you make of that statement, and can you and will you rein in that violence?
ARAFAT: Are you asking me while I am under complete siege? You are a wonderful journalist. You have to respect your profession.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Arafat, I'm simply asking you a question. Are you able to rein in the violence?
ARAFAT: You have to be accurate when you are speaking with General Yasser Arafat. Be quiet! You are covering, with such questions, the terrorist activities of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli crimes. Be fair. Why do you make these certain mistakes?
Thank you. Bye, bye.
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