Egypt leads Arab efforts to lift Arafat siege
What I find notable about this is that Arab nations are always calling out to put an end to violence which they somehow refuse to recognize is in large measure of their own doing. The difference here though is that none of the Arab nations are likely to send a military force to help their brothers as they have done in the past. Send money. Speak out. Show solidarity. But then sit back and watch Arafat betray his own people.
Egypt is leading Arab states in urging the United States and other powers to halt Israeli attacks on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat who has sent them calls from his besieged West Bank headquarters.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher telephoned the Palestinian leader and expressed Egypt's solidarity with him and the Palestinians in the face of Israeli aggression. Maher briefed Arafat on Egypt's efforts and contacts, the last of which is the urgent message President Hosni Mubarak has sent late on Saturday to US President George W. Bush to make Israel end its siege of the Palestinian President's offices.
In his message, the President said Israeli actions endanger the stability and security in the region as a whole. He called on the US administration to intervene effectively and immediately to halt the Israeli actions and secure the safety of the legitimate Palestinian leadership to avoid possible grave consequences.
Arafat demanded from Maher to deliver to President Mubarak his thanks and appreciation to the efforts he exerted in the interest of the Palestinian cause. Maher has received a phone call from the EU's chief of foreign policy, Javier Solana, and discussed the deteriorating situation in the region.
Speaking to reporters, Maher stressed that Israel's continuation in its aggressive and inhumane policies can't be accepted by the world. Referring to an emergency UN Security Council session scheduled for today to discuss the siege, Maher called on the global community to bear its responsibility to help end the crisis.
Presidential political adviser, Osama el-Baz also telephoned the Palestinian President to discuss the situation after the recent Israeli military escalation.
Arafat's aide Nabil Abu Rdainah said that the Palestinian leader had briefed el-Baz on Israel's preparations for a long stand-off and the re-imposition of the siege on Arafat's Ramalla headquarters and on Palestinian towns and villages.
Meanwhile, Israeli troops shot dead four Palestinian protesters yesterday as thousands of people took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to demonstrate against the siege of Yasser Arafat, witnesses said.
The protests, which erupted after midnight and resumed around midday, were the first sign of popular support for Arafat since troops besieged his West Bank headquarters on Thursday and prompted aides to suggest the army's siege could backfire.
Marching under pictures of the Palestinian leader and chanting "We will give our soul and blood for Arafat", protesters poured onto streets after midnight.
Palestinian hospital officials said two protesters were shot dead overnight in Ramallah and two others were killed in the early hours of the morning in the northern West Bank.
Palestinian hospital sources also said an Israeli soldier killed a teenager who defied a curfew in the West Bank city of Nablus. They said the soldier fired from a tank-mounted machinegun but the army had no information about the fifth reported death.
Thousands of people staged new rallies in Gaza City and in Hebron, Tubas, Salfit and Bethlehem in the West Bank after the deaths in the overnight protests.
Buoyed by the support, Arafat vowed never to surrender to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and refused to hand over 50 suspected militants who Israel says are holed up with him in his devastated presidential headquarters in the city of Ramallah.
"He reiterated he will not kneel before Sharon and has issued an order to his men that no one may surrender from the building," said Hatem Abdel Khader, a Palestinian aide
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