Murdering Arafat is "option," says Sharon aide; across Palestine, oppressed rally to leader

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Mon Sep 15 03:22:23 MDT 2003
September 15 NY Times
Sharon Aide Says Israel Is Considering Killing Arafat

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sept. 14 — Israel's vice prime minister said
today that killing Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, was one of
several options now under government consideration. His remarks came
as a beaming Mr. Arafat soaked up the cheers of supporters who
descended on his compound for a fourth consecutive day.

"Arafat can no longer be a factor in what happens here," the vice
prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told the Israel radio. "The question is:
How are we going to do it? Expulsion is certainly one of the options,
and killing is also one of the options."

"In my eyes, from a moral point of view, this is no different than the
eliminations of others who were involved in activating acts of
terror," Mr. Olmert said.

He said Israel could also leave Mr. Arafat confined to his West Bank
office in Ramallah, but "cut him off from the world" by severing
communications and barring visitors.

Mr. Olmert's remarks amounted to the most explicit description of
options Israel is considering for dealing with Mr. Arafat since Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon's government decided "in principle" on Thursday
to remove him, leaving the timing and type of action deliberately

In the past three years of fighting, Israel has carried out dozens of
targeted killings of Palestinian militants, including leaders who, in
Israel's judgment, gave orders to attack Israelis. Some hard-line
members of Mr. Sharon's government had raised the possibility of
killing or exiling Mr. Arafat previously, but the cabinet had always
rejected that option in discussions on the issue.

The new decision by the government is facing widespread international
opposition, including objections from the United States, Israel's
strongest ally.

"The United States does not support either the elimination of him or
the exile of Mr. Arafat," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told "Fox
News Sunday" in an interview from Baghdad. "I think you can anticipate
that there would be rage throughout the Arab world, the Muslim world,
and in many other parts of the world."

Mr. Arafat's badly damaged compound has generally appeared listless
and semi-deserted during his confinement during the last year and a
half. But since Israel announced that it had decided in principle to
remove Mr. Arafat, the complex has taken on a rollicking carnival
atmosphere, with ordinary Palestinians filling the square outside his

Today, a marching band thundered, and Palestinian folk dancers took to
a stage set up on the blacktop just outside the sandbagged front steps
of his three-story headquarters.

Dressed in his trademark checkered headdress and an olive
military-style uniform, Mr. Arafat blew kisses and gave the victory
sign to a crowd of about 2,000. They ranged from a white-haired woman
who kissed him on both cheeks, to children raised onto the shoulders
of their fathers for a better view.

"We are the brave people, and we will continue until we reach
Jerusalem," Mr. Arafat said, referring to the Palestinian goal of a
state with a capital in the eastern part of the city.

The music, the chanting and a whiny microphone drowned out most of his
remarks, but a broad smile never left his face as he took in the
adulation for a half hour, then retreated inside.

Amin Abbasi, a businessman, has visited the compound each of the last
four days, bringing his wife and four children, ages 4 to 12, at
various times.

"You will find people here who don't support the policies of Mr.
Arafat," said Mr. Abbasi, 44. "But as Palestinians, we feel we must
defend our president and tell the world that nobody can force us to
change our leader."

Mr. Sharon's government has shunned Mr. Arafat, saying he has
encouraged violence against Israel and has refused to order Israeli
security forces to prevent attacks.

The government's call for tougher action followed a pair of
Palestinian suicide bombings on Tuesday by the Islamic militant group
Hamas that killed 15 Israelis. The days since then have been marked by
increased tension and sporadic violence.

Today, Israeli forces shot dead a 14-year-old Palestinian boy who was
among a group of youths who cut through a perimeter fence of an
Israeli airport just outside Ramallah, Palestinian witnesses and
hospital officials said. An Israeli military official said soldiers
fired after a group of Palestinian infiltrators did not heed warning

The airport has not been used since the Palestinian uprising began in
September 2000, but Israeli troops continue to guard it.

In the central Gaza Strip, Palestinians marched in support of Mr.
Arafat and afterward threw stones at an Israeli military outpost near
the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom.

After tear gas and warning shots failed to drive the crowd back, the
Israeli troops fired on Palestinians, the army said. Several
Palestinians were wounded, Palestinians said.

At an Israeli cabinet meeting today, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said
the government had agreed to speed up work on a barrier that would
separate Israel from the West Bank. The barrier has been criticized
partly because it incorporates some Jewish settlements in the West
Bank and cuts into Palestinian areas.

One segment — which includes fencing, concrete walls, electronic
sensors and trenches — has been built along the northern West Bank.
But Israel has not announced the route along the central West Bank.

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