Hopes of reviving Mideast peace talks rest with U.S. envoy
Dennis Ross meets with 2 leaders Sunday
August 9, 1997
Web posted at: 9:50 p.m. EDT (0150 GMT)
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- U.S. envoy Dennis Ross arrived in Israel
Saturday amid growing tension between Palestinians and
Israelis, which in recent weeks has been acted out in air
strikes, missile attacks and a double-suicide bombing.
Only hours before Ross' arrival, Palestinian Authority
President Yasser Arafat accused Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu of "state terrorism," referring to
sanctions imposed by Israel after the July 30 blasts.
Earlier Saturday, Israeli fighter jets launched a
cross-border air raid against a Hezbollah
guerrilla training camp near the Lebanese village of Nabi
Sheet. One guerrilla was killed and three others wounded.
It was the second Israeli strike in 24 hours. The first was
aimed at the hilltop command post near Beirut of the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine guerrilla group.
The two Israeli air strikes were in response to a rocket
attack Friday in which missiles were launched from Lebanon
against an Israeli border town. One woman was wounded.
Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai blamed the attack
on Hezbollah guerrillas, but Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan
Nasrallah denied his group was involved.
He also warned that Hezbollah may strike border towns if
Israel continues to attack Palestinian targets.
Peace-seekers relying on Ross
The flare-up of fighting in the northern Israeli border
region is the worst since Israel launched a 17-day blitz in
April 1996. About 200 people were killed in those attacks.
Hopes for an end to the recent wave of violence were pinned
on Ross' efforts to revive the stalled peace talks.
Ross is due to meet Arafat and Netanyahu Sunday to discuss
how the two can begin talks on the status of Jerusalem and a
final peace settlement.
During an emergency session of the Palestinian legislature
Saturday, Arafat called on Israel to ease restrictions
imposed after last month's suicide bombings in a Jerusalem
market that killed 15 people.
After the bombings, Israel took the usual step of closing
border crossings at the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- which it
justifies as a means of keeping out terrorists -- and was
withholding tax revenues that Israel owes the Palestinian
Arafat vows to help catch bombers
Arafat said Saturday he is ready to help Israel catch those
responsible for the blasts.
"I am ready to participate with (Netanyahu) to discover, to
unmask those responsible for those terrorist activities," he
The Palestinians want the Americans to persuade Israel to
lift its tough sanctions and freeze Jewish home-building in
disputed areas, but they fear that Ross will focus solely on
Saturday evening, Israel announced a slight easing of the
closure on the West Bank cities of Jenin, Tulkarem and
Qalqiliya. In addition, the Gaza-Egypt crossing at Rafah was
being reopened, according to Israeli army radio.
"Dennis Ross is coming to discuss security issues. ... This
means the American initiative is only based on one point,"
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Saturday.
Netanyahu is expected to urge Arafat to clamp down on Islamic
militant groups, especially Hamas, and restore full security
cooperation with Israel.
Arafat has said the Palestinian Authority is doing as much as
it can to control extremists. On Friday, Palestinian security
forces arrested several people after discovering a bomb
factory. The Palestinian leader said he would not order
"mass arrests" of suspected terrorists.
"We are committed to peace, to the peace of the brave not the
peace of dictation, orders, starvation and siege," Arafat
said. "Our people will not kneel."
Beirut Bureau Chief Brent Sadler and Reuters contributed to this report.
Related sites:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.