Lates Developments in the Middle East
Thousands of Palestinians marked the second anniversary of their uprising against Israel with marches and rallies on Saturday. Two Palestinian men were killed by Israeli army fire in the Gaza Strip. Breaking days of silence, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat spoke by telephone from his besieged headquarters in Ramallah to again promise a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem. Troops ringed his largely demolished compound for a 10th day. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is under growing international pressure to withdraw, sent a top aide to Washington to discuss the standoff, media reports said Saturday. The two-year rebellion has claimed more than 1,800 lives on the Palestinian side and 620 on the Israeli side and has brought once-promising peace efforts near collapse since it broke out on Sept. 28, 2000.
•Israel confirmed Friday that a top Hamas bombmaker survived an Israeli air strike aimed at killing him, an operation that wounded 35 bystanders, including 15 children, and drew international criticism. Mohammed Deif, the intended target, was wounded when two missiles fired by Israeli helicopters in a crowded Gaza City neighborhood obliterated his green Mercedes, blowing apart two of his bodyguards.
•Israel is escalating military strikes against the Palestinians but moving gradually to deflect world criticism, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an interview published Friday in the Jerusalem Post . He also said the United States should lead an international monitoring team to assess Palestinian Authority reforms and defended the assault on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters compound.
• A security fence Israel is building along the edge of the West Bank will separate thousands of Palestinians from their land and turn the 40,000 people of Qalqiliya into virtual prisoners, Palestinians and Israeli human rights activists say. Israel says the fence is necessary to stop Palestinian suicide bombers from slipping into Israeli towns and cities to carry out attacks. The barrier eventually is expected to run the length of the 180-mile frontier between Israel and the West Bank, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast war.
•Israeli troops demolished three houses of Palestinian terror suspects Wednesday, while Jewish settler leaders inaugurated a new Jewish settlement near the Palestinian city of Nablus. In the West Bank town of Ramallah, Israel maintained its siege of Arafat's headquarters for a seventh day, ignoring a call by the U.N. Security Council to end operations there and withdraw from Palestinian cities. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Israel would not comply with the resolution because Palestinians are not meeting the Security Council's demands to halt attacks on Israelis and arrest those responsible.
• Israeli troops backed by dozens of tanks raided Gaza City early Tuesday in the deepest incursion yet into the Palestinians' largest metropolis, killing nine Palestinians in gun battles in crowded neighborhoods. Soldiers destroyed 13 workshops where the army said crude rockets were being made, and blew up the family house of a Hamas militiaman who killed five Israeli teenagers in a shooting rampage in a Jewish settlement in Gaza earlier this year.