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World - Middle East

Israel blocks Palestinian gathering in Jerusalem

In this story:

November 15, 1998
Web posted at: 5:14 a.m. EST (1014 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli police closed down a theater in Arab East Jerusalem on Sunday and stationed troops outside to prevent a Palestinian political gathering.

Police said members of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah group, the main faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), were scheduled to hold an election at the Hakawati theater.

Struggle for Peace
 
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    Background:

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    Palestinians said the gathering was called to mark 10 years since Arafat's declaration of Palestinian statehood. They said troops had surrounded the theater and the nearby Orient House, the PLO's Jerusalem headquarters.

    "Police served managers of the theater an order signed by the public security minister preventing Fatah activists from conducting the election of the Palestinian Authority," a police statement said.

    Israel claims East Jerusalem, which it captured in the 1967 Middle East war, is part of its "eternal and undivided" capital and bars Arafat's Palestinian Authority from conducting political activity in the area.

    Palestinians view East Jerusalem as their future capital. Under Israeli-Palestinian peace deals, the fate of Jerusalem is to be determined in "final status" talks ending no later than May 4, 1999.

    Independent state in '99?

    Israel accused Arafat of jeopardizing the Wye accords on Saturday after he announced his intention to establish a Palestinian state next year.

    "Continuing statements of this sort put into doubt the Oslo agreement in general and the Wye agreement in particular," a statement released by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

    Arafat told thousands of Palestinians who gathered in the West Bank city of Nablus to celebrate a decade since the first Palestinian declaration of statehood, that next year they would be living in an independent Palestinian state.

    "We will declare our independent state on May 4, 1999 with Jerusalem as its capital, yes Jerusalem, the eternal capital of our state, whether they like it or not," Arafat said in his address which was also broadcast on Palestinian radio.

    Israel threatens reprisal

    Israel reiterated a threat made by its cabinet on Wednesday after it ratified the Wye deal that it would take unilateral steps of its own if Arafat declared a Palestinian state in May.

    "Israel will see itself free to take all necessary measures in order to protect its national interests including the imposition of Israeli law over security zones and areas of settlement," the statement said.

    The Wye River deal signed at the White House on October 23, calls for an Israeli troop pullout from parts of the West Bank and for firm Palestinian security measures against Moslem militants opposed to peace.

    Reuters contributed to this report.

     
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