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Latest Headline Briefs from Israel - July 16, 2001
Efforts to save the collapsing cease-fire shifted to Cairo today, where Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat met separately with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. There was a possibility that Arafat would also meet Peres. Arafat and Peres met last month at a conference in Lisbon; but they failed to narrow the gaps on implementing the cease-fire, and Peres took a lot of heat from cabinet ministers who thought the meeting was premature and inappropriate. "We have got to go again to the political road," Peres told reporters after meeting Mubarak. "Israel is searching for a political solution, not a military solution. We should continue to negotiate with Yasser Arafat, the elected leader of the Palestinian people...Many mistakes were committed, but the greatest mistake, the mother of mistakes, is war." Yesterday, Arafat met in Ramallah with US envoy David Satterfield, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs. Arafat also spoked by phone Secretary of State Colin Powell and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.
The stepped up US, European and Egyptian involvement comes against the background of an ominous report in "Jane's Foreign Report," a British newsletter that specializes in intelligence matters. The report says Israel is planning a massive of invasion of Palestinian areas after the next major terrorist attack. The operation would be initiated by heavy air raids with F-16 and F-15 fightersâ€”possibly preceded by an artillery barrageâ€”on all the main Palestinian Authority command and control centers in Gaza and Ramallah. Up to 30,000 Israeli paratroops, infantry and armored brigades would then quickly move in. "Estimated Israeli casualties would be in their hundreds; Palestinian losses would be in their thousands," the report said, citing a source that had seen the plan drawn up by Israeli generals. "By the end of the operation, the generals reckon that the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, would have been forced to leave the West Bank or Gaza Strip," the newsletter said. "The 40,000-strong Palestinians armed forces would be disarmed and either dead or held in detention camps." The Israeli army denied the report. "The Israeli army like every army in the world has many plans for many possibilities but such a plan as mentioned has not been raised and has not been proposed," said Israeli army spokesman Olivier Rafowicz. Nevertheless, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer warned that "Arafat is leading his people to destruction."
Dozens of Israeli residents of the divided city of Hebron in Judea briefly occupied a house in the Arab marketplace today, but left peacefully when ordered out by police. The settlers said they took over the house, which they described as Jewish property, as an act of protest and defiance against Palestinian terrorists who killed two residents of the area in separate attacks last week. "We entered to show the Arabs, the world at large and the army, that as long as terror attacks try to remove and reduce us, we aren't afraid to leave our homes and enter additional places that belong to us," Hebron resident Elimelech Karzan told Army Radio. Part of Hebron is under Israeli control including the Tomb of the Patriarchs; the other part is under Palestinian control.
The Lebanese terrorist group Hizbollah has announced that it has a videotape of the abduction of three Israeli soldiers last October on the northern border. Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah Nasrallah said in a televised speech that the videotape would be released at the appropriate time. Another Hizbollah official said the organization filmed all its operations and would use this one to pressure Israel into releasing Lebanese detainees held in Israel. Hizbollah said its film was separate from a videotape taken by UN peacekeepers the day after the October 7 abduction, which has been at the center of controversy over the past few days. Israel has protested to the UN over intentions to edit the tape before handing it over for viewing. Nasrallah's revelation of the video came a day after Israel's "Maâ€™ariv" newspaper quoted an unidentified peacekeeper of the UNâ€™s Indian battalion as saying a number of his fellow troops had collaborated in the abduction. Israel has not received any information on the condition of the abducted soldiers.