Israeli Army orders withdrawal from Jenin, Jericho : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Israeli Army Orders Withdrawal from Jenin, Jericho

Xinhuanet 2001.09.19 01:45:13

JERUSALEM, September 18 (Xinhuanet) -- The Israeli army announced on Tuesday that it would withdraw its troops from Area A, or areas under full Palestinian control, near the West Bank city of Jenin and Jericho.

In an order issued by Israeli army's Chief of General Staff Shaul Mofaz, the army would begin on Tuesday evening its withdrawal from Palestinian areas reoccupied by Israel earlier this month, according to an army spokeswoman. Meanwhile, Israel Radio reported that Mofaz also ordered to discuss ways to resume the security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians, which has been halted since the start of the violence in late September last year.

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, who consulted with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, ordered the army to stop "initiated operations," or offensive military actions, against Palestinian targets.

The Israeli army spokeswoman said that all those measures were in response to an earlier ceasefire declaration by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. She confirmed that the ceasefire would include incursions into Area A, or areas under full Palestinian control in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and target killings of Palestinian activists. She added that the ceasefire announcement is aimed to "test Arafat's declaration" and show Israel's intention to try to end the one-year-old violence and return to normal the life in the region.

Over 800 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed in the Palestinian-Israeli violence since late September last year. Arafat declared in the nine-point peace appeal issued at a press conference at his presidential office earlier Tuesday that he will unilaterally enforce a ceasefire with Israel, and order his forces to stop shooting even in the event of self-defense.

Arafat also stated that he remains committed to negotiating a peace agreement with Israel and he recognizes Israel's right to live in secure borders. Later, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres responded that he was pleased with Arafat's announcement."We have to welcome the new tone and hope it continues," Peres said in a statement issued by his office.

Sharon promised Sunday that if Arafat announced a ceasefire, he would stop Israel's initiated attacks against Palestinian targets.He added that if the ceasefire could hold 48 consecutive hours, he would allow Arafat and Peres to meet and discuss next steps to stop the violence between the two sides.

It is not immediately clear whether the truce could stand on the ground this time and whether Peres and Arafat would meet in two days. The two sides had reached several ceasefires in the past but none could hold. It was reported that three Palestinians were injured earlier Tuesday evening in an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank town of Hebron.

Ben Eliezer said on Tuesday that although Israel decided to let Arafat prove his ceasefire promises, the Jewish state reserved the right to launch self-defense actions. Tuesday's ceasefire announcement was reportedly related to the unprecedented attacks in the United States last Tuesday. The U.S. administration has reportedly exerted great pressure on both sides for a ceasefire. Enditem

-- Swissrose (, September 18, 2001


Arafat, Israel Agree to Uphold Truce

By IBRAHIM BARZAK, Associated Press Writer

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip --

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said today he ordered his forces to prevent any attacks on Israeli soldiers and to hold back even if fired upon. Israel responded by promising not to launch attacks on Palestinians.

Israel also said it would withdraw troops from Palestinian areas it seized in recent days. Later today, dozens of tanks pulled back from the outskirts of the West Bank town of Jenin, witnesses said.

Several hours after Arafat's announcement, two shooting incidents were reported in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It was unclear what provoked them.

Both sides have been under pressure from the United States to work out a truce. Washington is trying to bring Arab and Muslim countries into an international anti-terror coalition it is forming in response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Continued Mideast fighting would disrupt such efforts.

Arafat said today he was committed to a truce with Israel and was doing his utmost to enforce it.

He told foreign diplomats at his Gaza City office that he has ordered his security forces "to act intensively in securing a cease-fire on all our fronts." Even if his men came under fire, he said, they were to show "maximum restraint."

In response, Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer ordered a halt to all offensive military operations against the Palestinians, said ministry spokesman Yarden Vatikay.

"If Arafat really wants to calm the area, we want to help, to give Arafat a chance," said Vatikay, adding that Israel remained skeptical about Arafat's intentions.

Vatikay would not elaborate on the army's new orders. It appeared that the halt would cover Israeli incursions into Palestinian territory and targeted attacks on suspected Palestinian militants. But Israeli troops would be allowed to return fire if fired upon.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called Arafat's statements "strong and positive" and praised Israel's reciprocal measures. The result, he said, would be a "sort of separation that might encourage a state of nonviolence."

Powell said he had conferred today by phone with Arafat and with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Shortly after the Israeli announcement, more than 35 tanks and armored vehicles were seen withdrawing from positions around the West Bank town of Jenin, Palestinian witnesses said.

In recent days, Israel had stepped up its retaliation for Palestinian shooting attacks, with Israeli tanks repeatedly entering Palestinian towns. In the past week, 26 Palestinians and six Israelis have been killed.

The Israeli army said that a post came under fire in the West Bank town of Hebron late today after Arafat's announcement. Troops returned fire, the army said.

A gun battle was also reported in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, near the Israeli-Palestinian border. It was not immediately clear what triggered the fighting.

In the past year of fighting, several cease-fire deals have collapsed, with each side accusing the other of being the aggressor.

However, the terror attacks on the United States and the expected U.S. response have forced both Israel and the Palestinians to rethink their tactics.

A senior Palestinian official, speaking privately, said the Palestinian leadership hoped to start a new chapter with Israel, urging Israel to do its part to bring down the violence.

The U.N. envoy to the Middle East, Terje Roed-Larsen, said he believed Arafat's attitude has changed.

"I think there's a strong belief on the Palestinian side that power is no longer in the barrel of a gun, that power now is based on diplomatic instruments to be used at the negotiating table," said Roed-Larsen, who has been in close contact with Arafat.

The U.N. envoy said a meeting should be arranged as quickly as possible between Arafat and Peres.

Sharon has said he would only allow such talks after there have been 48 hours of complete quiet. It was not immediately clear whether Sharon is sticking to his condition.

After Arafat's announcement, Peres said he welcomed the "new tone." Sharon took Arafat's message "seriously," said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who spoke to Sharon by phone.

Arafat had spoken twice before this week about his willingness to halt the yearlong fighting. But today's announcement was the clearest yet. Arafat met Sunday with Sharon's son, Omri, who has served as a messenger in the past, Palestinian officials said.

Arafat also said he has informed the United States of his "readiness to be part of the international alliance for ending terrorism against unarmed, innocent civilians."

Arafat's emerging shift in policy was likely to renew friction with the Islamic militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Senior Muslim clergymen linked to Hamas issued a religious edict today, saying those siding with the United States against Muslims are traitors.

Offenders would be committing "one of the biggest crimes and treason against God, the Prophet Muhammad and the believers," Sheik Hamed Bitawi said in the West Bank town of Nablus.

In fighting earlier today, before the truce announcement, two Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in separate incidents in the West Bank towns of Nablus and Hebron.

-- PHO (, September 18, 2001.

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