Latest News in Israel - Oct 20, 2000

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Latest News in Israel - Oct 20, 2000
Israel still has plenty of reasons to be concerned that PLO chief Yasser Arafat will not honor the Sharm e-Sheikh cease-fire, as armed Palestinian elements continue to fire upon Israeli targets and Arafat has yet to clearly order his forces to quell the uprising.

Several intense gunfights and terrorist incidents on Thursday have shattered any lingering illusions that the unsigned Sharm truce would take hold among the Palestinians. Here is a rundown of developments this afternoon and evening, followed by events in the preceding 24 hours. Finally, we offer a report on the ICEJ's Feast of Tabernacles taking place in the eye of the brewing storm - in Jerusalem.

THURSDAY - 19:20 - One of the five settlers wounded earlier during a gunfight between Arabs and Israeli forces near Shechem (Nablus) died of his wounds today. Two of the settlers, who were critically injured, have been evacuated by the IDF. One of the wounded has not yet been evacuated. The settlers were injured when Arabs opened fire on the bus on which they were travelling. The settlers had climbed onto a hilltop in order to survey the site of Joseph's Tomb, after reportedly receiving permission from the IDF. In the ensuing gunfight the IDF utilized helicopter gunships, and one Palestinian officer was killed.

14:45 - A powerful explosion occurred in the headquarters of PLO leader Yasser Arafat's Force 17 unit in Bethlehem. Two PA policemen were killed in the blast, with five wounded. The cause of the blast was apparently the explosion of gas cannisters. Shooting was reported in the area.

13:20 - Opposition factions decided at a conference in Tel Aviv NOT to dismiss the possibility of joining an emergency government.

09:00 - The Israel Defense Forces opened the Karni border crossing with the Gaza Strip to commercial traffic as part of the emergency Sharm e-Sheikh summit agreement.

07:50 - Shots were fired at tanks deployed near the Gilo neighborhood in Jerusalem, IDF reported. No injuries reported.

Late this evening, there are reports of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Likud leader Ariel Sharon meeting this evening to discuss once again terms for an emergency unity governemnt. Sharon has been demanding that Barak discard Oslo - i.e., no more negotiations with Arafat and the current Palestinian leadership. Barak commented on today's developments by saying it is becoming clearer that Arafat never intended to honor a cease-fire from the start.


President Moshe Katsav has criticized the PLO leader, saying he refuses to denounce violence and call an end to the conflict as the late Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, did.

A senior security source has said that the danger of terrorist attacks was stronger than any other time because of all the freed Hamas terrorists. To this end, Israel will continue its closure on the PA territories, Israel Radio reported. In addition, Palestinian workers will not yet be allowed to return to their jobs in Israel.

ARUTZ SHEVA reported that a representative of Italian Television apologized to the Palestinian Authority for screening the video of the lynching of the two Israeli soldiers - and had his press card suspended by the Israeli Government Press Office. Riccardo Christiano, Italian TV's representative in Israel, wrote to the PA, "To my dear friends in Palestine, We bless you, and feel that we must clarify that the photos of the events in Ramallah were taken by a private Italian station, and not by official Italian TV. We emphasize to you that we respect the proper journalistic work guidelines with the Palestinian Authority. Be sure that we would never do something like that." The letter was published in the PA's Al Hayat al-Jadida.

MORNING REPORTS: There were intense clashes in the Gaza Strip yesterday. Last night, a large 5 kilo roadside bomb exploded in Gush Katif but no one was seriously hurt. There were 39 passengers on a bus near the explosion and military officials said it was a "miracle" that there were not major casualties.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak says he is not convinced that Israel has a partner for peace. He has viewed the incident in Gush Katif very gravely.

Both Labor and Likud parties say Barak and opposition leader Ariel Sharon will resume contacts for a National Unity Government by the end of the week. Barak has said he will freeze his secular plan to forge unity.

A senior political source says PLO leader Yasser Arafat will reduce the violence ahead of the Arab league summit taking place this weekend, but will not order a cease-fire. According to the source, Arafat has not changed his current strategy. He is expected to renew violence after the Arab summit in coordination with his attempt to declare an independent Palestinian state on November 15th.

It has been reported that at Sharm e-Sheikh, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak insisted that Arafat sign the summit agreement because Mubarak was concerned that the violence in Israel would spill over into the streets of Egypt at a level that his government could not control. Mubarak stated that war can not resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

The IDF remains on high alert. Troops and tanks are still deployed in the territories. The high alert is costing the IDF two million shekels a day. In response to gunfire yesterday from Beit Jalla, concrete walls were today installed at the entrance to Ha'anafa street in Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood.

Israel has not commented on reports that police have arrested six Palestinians who took part in the lynching of Israeli soldiers in Ramallah last week. The Palestinians are accusing Israel of violating the Sharm e-Sheikh agreement by making the arrests. Reports indicate that the Tanzim- the military wing of Arafat's Fatah- is hiding some of the members of the mob that participated in the lynching. Israel believes that the PA warned Arabs to go underground in anticipation of the Israeli response.

At least 85 members of Hamas have been released from Palestinian jails during the violence over the past few weeks. Hamas says the Palestinian Authority has re-arrested 25 of its members. A top Hamas leader was taken into custody. Israel is expecting the Palestinians to control those involved in terrorism.

The government of Israel is working on a unilateral separation plan to keep the Israelis and Palestinians apart. Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh denies this will include dismantling settlements.

The UN General Assembly met in a special emergency session yesterday. The session was opened by Palestinian UN observer Nasser al-Kidwa, who accused Israel of "war crimes". Israeli UN representative Yehuda Lancry rejected charges that Israel had used unnecessary force. UN members drafted a second resolution that condemned acts of violence by Israel. The special session was called after the regular Security Council said it would not meet in special session.

US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright has spoken optimistically about the Sharm e-Sheikh summit agreement saying that she believes positive results are taking place. The Clinton administration is encouraged by what they believe is a reduction of violence, but they are monitoring the situation closely.

In London, Islamic fundamentalists have distributed posters calling on Muslims to kill Jews. A Jewish yeshiva student was stabbed last week in London, allegedly by an Algerian man. The Algerian was remanded in court and will be charged with attempted murder.

Christian leaders have condemned attacks against Jews in France. France has experienced at least 70 antisemitic incidents in recent weeks.

Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

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