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Israel-Palestinian Talks Crucial As US War Rages

by Selwyn Manning

Tension, armed clashes, indiscriminate violence and tenuous diplomacy continue to cloud the Israel and Palestinian ceasefire. But moves toward a more peaceful Palestinian/Israeli region are crucial at this time of western military strikes against Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban.

Palestinian security has clamped down on its own people clashing during demonstrations and meeting aggression with force. Israel continues to pressurise the situation with occupation of a “buffer zone” around the West Bank and Gaza areas. It says this is essential to "contain" Palestinian killings of Israeli citizens.

Israeli reports daily killings by Palestinian rogue groups.

This morning’s reports list how an IDF unit identified three Palestinian terrorists placing explosive charges on the system fence near the Karni passage in the northern Gaza Strip. The charging force fired shots toward the terrorists and confirmed hits.

The IDF also captured a man who crossed the system fence from the direction of Lebanon territories into Israel, at the eastern part of the Israel - Lebanon border.

An investigation revealed that the man was not armed and his intentions were not destructive. The man was transferred to the security forces for investigation.

The IDF also redeployed near the Netzer Hazni settlement where it identified two armed Palestinians trying to cross the system fence surrounding Gush Katif. The force fired shots toward the terrorists and confirmed hits. The IDF claims it prevented a terrorist attack against civilians and IDF soldiers in the region.

The Palestinian National Authority countered the Israeli claims.

The PNA today issued the following account: “For the fourth day in a row, the occupation troops continued their barbaric aggression on the city of Hebron, tightened its control on several quarters in the city, and shelled several areas with tanks and heavy machine guns. The shelling resulted in the martyrdom of Raed Bahjat al-Shareef, 28, and the injury of two other Palestinians who were in a cab when the shelling started.

“Meanwhile, Issa Abdul Fattah Abu Tabeekh, 17, died yesterday at the Israeli military checkpoint at the entrance of Sammou' village when occupation soldiers stopped the ambulance that was carrying Issa who was suffering a heart attack but he died at the checkpoint. The ambulance returned to the village without needing to cross the checkpoint. Meanwhile, the Israeli Radio said a settler received serious injuries last night when his car was subjected to gunfire as it was passing near Surda Village near Ramallah.

“A Palestinian blew himself up and killed a setter from Shlomot Kibbutz in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. Islamic Jihad Movement claimed responsibility for the attack. A statement by Islamic Jihad said al-Quds Brigades executed the attack and that Ahmad Abdul Munem Daraghmeh, 18, was the Palestinian who executed the attack. The Israeli Radio said the perpetrator of the attack is from Toubas,” the Palestinian National Authority said.
Unrest between Palestinian factions has also increased.

Demonstrations in Gaza City spiralled out of control earlier this week resulting in least two Palestinians dead and several Palestinian institutions burnt and looted.

Voice of Palestine Radio reported Palestinian cabinet secretary Ahmad Abdel Rahman pointing the finger back at Israel: "What took place expressed the anger of Palestinians against Israel and those who back it. There is no contradiction or conflict between Palestinian police and students," he said.

Unrest between Palestinian Security Forces and fringe groups intensified.

Palestinian security forces arrested Abbas Sayyed, 36, a Hamas official in Tulkarem and Anas Shreiteh, 23, a Nablus Islamic Jihad activist. Other suspected uprising leaders were interrogated and released. Hamas officials later condemned the arrests in a statement.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is aware that his own security forces must clamp down on Hamas and other fringe group activities if he is to win further support from the west in his push for a self-governing Palestinian state.

The self-policing of “dissident” groups by Palestinian Security is clearly designed to display control by Arafat, and the political wing of the Palestinian cause. This is what the United States called for and Israel demanded. The Palestinian Authority counter-insists Israel must first show political goodwill by lifting the closure on Palestinians and establishing the political structure for substantive talks.

The move is also one of self-preservation for a peoples determined to grasp self-determination. Pragmatism dictates alliance to the war against terrorism.

Arafat well knows there is nothing to gain in opposing the United States driven hunt for those responsible for the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11 [USEST]. Arafat knows the damage done and time lost after he sided sympathies with Iraq during the Gulf War in 1991. That move cost he and his people dearly.

Of course, the Palestinian/Israeli region of the middle east is central to the United States led war against the Taliban.

When the United States and Britain launched their attacks on Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban regime, Osama Bin Laden was quick to draw a link to the Palestinian cause.

He said: "As for the United States, I tell it and its people these few words: I swear by Almighty God who raised the heavens without pillars that neither the United States nor he who lives in the United States will enjoy security before we can see it as a reality in Palestine and before all the infidel armies leave the land of Mohammed, may God's peace and blessing be upon him," bin Laden said in a taped speech played on Al Jazeera satellite television.

The Palestinian Authority replied. "It is correct that there is injustice, terror, killings and crimes committed daily in Palestine, but this does not justify or provide excuses for killing or terrorizing civilians in Washington, New York or other areas," Abed Rabbo said. Palestinians should avoid making "strategic mistakes". It was a clear reference to Palestinian support for Iraq against the US-led coalition in the Gulf War.

Arafat gained much in Palestinian/US relations in the immediate days after the September 11 attacks. His organisation is determined to continue to gain benefit from this. The result is an increase in security and policing of its own people.

The Palestinian Report news agency listed further clashes: “On October 4, Palestinians experienced invasions into territory under their control in the Gaza Strip. Six Palestinians - two farmers and four members of the Palestinian National Security forces - were killed in the heavy tank fire.

“Hebron, too, experienced a week of heavy casualties after Palestinians opened fire on Jewish worshippers at the Al Ibrahimi Mosque in the city's heart, injuring two. On October 5, six Palestinians were killed and fifteen injured in invasions into the Abu Sneineh quarter. On October 6, another two Palestinian security officers were killed.

“Israelis were also caught off-guard when a Palestinian disguised as an Israeli soldier opened fire at the Afula bus station in northern Israel. Three Israelis were killed and four injured in the attack,” Palestinian Report said.

When students at Gaza's Islamic University set to the streets to protest the US bombing and in support of bin Laden, the Palestinian Authority broke up the demonstration with live bullets and tear gas, an act unprecedented since the Authority's early days.

The next day, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's media advisor Nabil Abu Rdeineh said, "We are like any other country in the world. We will not allow any person outside the Palestinian Authority and the leaders to force the leadership to take position that are not agreed on and do not enjoy national consensus."

Simultaneously, West Bank Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi said that there were attempts to unify the political parties behind "one peaceful force."

US President George W Bush earlier backed Palestinian moves to self-governance and a Palestinian state, a call the European Union was fast to encourage. It brought outrage and outrageous bursts from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

An angry Sharon launched a “regretful” deluge aimed at the United States, followed by a back-down of its apparent intent. It only served to further isolate Israel from old established allies.

Today, the European Union encouraged Bush in a statement.

The statement read: “The European Union praised US President George W. Bush on Monday for supporting the idea of a Palestinian state, and urged his administration to play a full role in the quest for Middle East peace.”

The statement was issued during the EU’s monthly meeting in Luxembourg. E. U foreign ministers called upon Israel to implement "in good faith" the ceasefire pledges that they have made, and to open a "direct dialogue" towards a peace settlement.

"The European Union moreover welcomes president Bush's declaration acknowledging the right of the Palestinians to a viable state provided that Israel's right to exist is guaranteed," the statement said.

The United Nations moved distancing from Israel.

UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, spoke out against Israel's creation of what it terms as "buffer zones" in the West Bank. Earlier in the week, Israeli occupation authorities had announced their intention to create buffer zones within the West Bank, isolating tens of Palestinian villages from their Palestinian surrounding.

The Israeli occupation army claims that these buffer zones, which have been widely and vehemently condemned by the Palestinian leadership, aim to separate Israel proper from the rest of the West Bank. Within these buffer zones, tens of thousands of Palestinian residents in these buffer zones would be confined to their villages and restricted to movement within the daylight hours only.

According to Kofi Annan's spokesperson, Mr. Fred Eckhard, the UN Secretary General described the move to create these zones as "a unilateral and provocative act, contrary to the signed agreement between Israel and the Palestinians”.

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