Arafat rules out Jerusalem surrender : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Thursday, 30 November, 2000, 12:02 GMT Arafat rules out Jerusalem surrender

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says his people will not give up an inch of their claim to Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem despite the other side's overwhelming military superiority. The future status of the city has been a key sticking point in stalled peace negotiations which the Israeli leadership hopes to unblock before elections next year.

The Palestinian people will not be intimidated by this Israeli war machine Yasser Arafat More than 280 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed and thousands more injured in two months of protest in the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Reports from the West Bank say Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian teenager near Bethlehem on Thursday. There were also said to be clashes in the same area after a Palestinian child was hit by a car and killed in what his family said was a deliberate act by a Jewish settler.

Arafat consent to talks could by Barak's lifeline Speaking in Tunis, Mr Arafat said that "despite all the Israeli war machine and the economic blockade... our people are holding their heads up high and continuing their march in defence of Jerusalem".

"The Palestinian people will not be intimidated... We will defend every inch of the soil of Jerusalem. Nobody among us will give up a single inch of the soil of holy Jerusalem."

Thousands of Palestinian Muslims are expected to try to attend the first Friday prayers of Ramadan tomorrow at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque which has been at the centre of the conflict.

Political ferment

Reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians is widely seen as Mr Barak's only chance to salvage his political future, after he agreed to an early general election on Tuesday.

Israeli opposition party leaders met on Wednesday to consider Mr Barak's move, and said they wanted an election as soon as possible. Media reports suggest the election could be held on 8 or 15 May.

Barak announced early elections at a stormy Knesset session The meeting was chaired by Ariel Sharon, leader of the largest opposition party, the right-wing Likud.

He said he had not ruled out joining a government of national unity. Speculation is rife that Mr Sharon could soon face a challenge from the former prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who is ahead in opinion polls.

Mr Sharon - a hardline nationalist who opposes territorial concessions to the Palestinians - has been asking for significant control over the details of any peace moves.

Peace moves

The prime minister has been leading a minority government since the abortive Camp David summit in July, and his popularity has plummeted amid coalition resignations and the collapse of the peace process.

The intifada has killed off the peace proces as we know it

Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami has said the government remains committed to the peace process.

In a BBC interview, Mr Ben Ami said any future agreement depended on a sensible compromise being reached, but at the moment special emphasis was being placed on trying to bring down the level of violence.

Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said there was hope that a peace accord could be reached before elections.

"Barak still has six months until the coming elections, and if he wants, he can stop his aggression and adopt a new policy that will enable him to go to his people with progress in the peace process," Mr Shaath said.

-- Martin Thompson (, November 30, 2000

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