Al-Jazeera News April 5, 2002

Al-Jazeera TV Website. 5 April 2002. 13:16 G.M.T.

American emissary, Anthony Zinni, has concluded his discussions with Palestinian President Yasir Arafat in his besieged headquarters in Ramallah, the first such meeting between Arafat and a foreign personality since the Israeli occupation army laid siege to his offices and isolated him inside a few rooms in the building in Ramallah.

Nabil Abu Rudayna, an adviser to President Arafat, said that Arafat’s meeting with General Zinni ended with an agreement by both sides to continue the American-Palestinian meetings in the next few hours. Senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said that Israel refused to allow any Palestinian officials accompany Zinni to take part in the meeting with Arafat. He said that preventing them from attending is a clear indicationof the Israeli side’s ill-will. He emphasized the importance of members of the negotiating team participating in the meetings because they have the details and the documents that President Arafat needs.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, on Thursday gave permission for Zinni to meet Arafat. The Zinni-Arafat meeting is aimed, evidently, at preparing for the visit next week of the US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East.

The Situation on the Ground

Israeli occupation forces have used Apache helicopters to continue intense rocket attacks on the cities of Nablus and Jenin and the refugee camps located in those areas. Twenty have died as martyrs and there are large numbers of wounded.

Al-Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine reports that 14 died as martyrs in Nablus alone. The old city in Nablus has been subjected to intense bombardment. The correspondent indicated that the occupation army has begun intentionally and systematically to destroy houses and cars, invading houses by blowing off their doors. The occupation army invaded the town of Toubas, north of Nablus, where a girl of fourteen was killed by occupation army gunfire.

The correspondent reports that the Israelis are carrying out intentional and systematic wrecking and destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure in an operation that covers all Palestinian cities and towns. They are targeting electricity grids, water supplies and sewers, trees, sidewalks, and schools – things that will take dozens of years to rebuild.

The correspondent reported that four Israeli soldiers were injured in two separate attacks on the Israeli occupation forces in Nablus. In the environs of the city, Palestinian operations against Israeli armor continue. Five tanks have been destroyed and another set on fire in the western part of the old city. Eyewitnesses say that Israeli helicopters could be seen taking away their wounded.

In Jenin the bombardment of Jenin refugee camp and the old city continued, leaving five Palestinian martyrs dead and numerous others injured. Occupation forces have still not been able to invade the camp. The Chief of Staff of the Israeli army has announced that he would reinforce the troops there.

Occupation forces shelled Al-Razi Hospital and Jenin Hospital near where violent battles are underway. Earlier the occupation forces shelled the water storage tanks and oxygen store rooms in the hospitals, preventing them from treating the sick and injured. Dr. Ali Jabbarin of Al-Razi Hospital told al-Jazeera that the hospital’s ambulance came under attack and that the ambulance crews are unable to get to the wounded and martyred as the hospital and its staff are subjected to gunfire.

In Bethlehem, news reports say that four explosions occurred in the environs of the besieged Church of the Nativity. There has been no word regarding dead or wounded as a result of the blasts. A number of explosions also occurred in the area of the church yesterday.

A (female) correspondent for al-Jazeera reports that the church has been subjected to intense fire from the occupation forces. She added that the Israeli troops blew up the back gate of the church and broke open a hole in the outer wall in an apparent attempt to storm it. The church’s bell ringer was killed by Israeli gunfire when he was ringing the church bells.

Also in Bethlehem a Palestinian security source reported that the bodies of seven Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israelwere found today about 300 meters from the Church of the Nativity. It is believed they were killed on Monday.

In al-Khalil [Hebron] eyewitnesses report that two Israeli helicopters fired two rockets at a car in the city, injuring five persons. Israeli tanks and troops have by now invaded most of the cities and towns of the West Bank, other than Jericho, in the framework of their current aggression and in an attempt to isolate President Arafat.

The Israeli occupation army has prevented journalists from covering events around the headquarters of the Palestinian President in Ramallah. The troops detonated a percussion explosive in the direction of about 40 correspondents and their armored vehicle on which the word “Press” was written in Hebrew, English, and Arabic.

The tanks that were on Manger Square and near by trained their cannon on the journalists when they were outside their vehicle, while two Israeli military vehicles and a black military Mercedes took up positions in the area to push the group of reporters away from Arafat’s headquarters, allowing them to stay for only a few seconds. A back windows of car belonging to the American CNN network were broken by live gunfire. Israeli troops also confiscated the press cards of a team from Canadian television (CBC).

Security Council Resolution

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution in the early hours of this morning that expresses deep concern over the continuing deterioration of the situation in the Middle East. The resolution, No. 1403, demands the “immediate implementation of Resolution 1402” that called for an immediate cease fire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the cities of the West Bank, including Ramallah.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Israel to allow all peace envoys in the Middle East from Russia, the European Union, the United Nations, and the United States to meet with Palestinian President Yasir Arafat whom Israeli forces have besieged in his ruined headquarters in Ramallah.

The Palestinian President announced today his agreement with the speech of US President George Bush who called for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from the cities of the West Bank as a prelude to reaching a truce and to holding peace talks. Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Arafat had accepted the contents of Bush’s speech “unconditionally.” For its part, Israel welcomed the decision of US President Bush to send US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region in the latest American move to deal with the situation in the area. But Israel rejected the call to pull its forces out of the Palestinian areas. It said that that would need to take place in the framework of a cease-fire.

[Translator’s note: As was pointed out in the independent Beirut newspaper “as-Safir” today, US President Bush’s speech did not include a specific call for an immediate Israeli pullout from the Palestinian cities that it has re-occupied. What he said was, “I ask Israel to halt incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas and begin the withdrawal from those cities it has recently occupied.”]

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