Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has defied a United Nations call for a complete withdrawl from occupied Palestinian territory - continuing an illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and an armed siege surrounding Yasser Arafat's compound.
Lebanon, Egypt and other Middle East countries demand that the United Nations intervene against Israel and its take over of Ramallah - a move Sharon says is retaliation for ongoing suicide bombing attacks, targeting civilians, inside Israel.
Israeli jets had fired missiles near Lebanese border towns after Hizbollah fighters attacked Israeli posts in a disputed frontier region.
United States President George W Bush has supported Sharon's decision to use Israeli ground force and air force to strike back against "terrorist" attacks.
Israeli forces encircled Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah - soldiers fired upon the compound using tanks, mortar and automatic arms. The bodies of five Palestinian policemen were found in a Ramallah building vacated by Israeli troops hours earlier.
Palestinians accused Israel of killing them in cold blood. Israel said they had been shot in a close-range battle in which two Israeli soldiers had been wounded. One of Arafat's bodyguards and an intelligence officer were killed. Another Arafat bodyguard died of wounds he sustained on Friday.
Fresh violence erupted when two Palestinians on their way to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel died during a firefight with Israeli border police. An Israeli policeman was killed.
A defiant Arafat, in a candlelit interview at his tank-encircled headquarters, asked the world to end what he called Israel's assault on his people. "I appeal to the international community to stop this aggression against our people, this military escalation, this killing," Arafat told reporters.
The Israeli army has cut off water and electricity to Arafat's compound but said on Sunday it had let Palestinian ambulances deliver food, bottled water and candles.
Hours later a suicide bomber blew himself up in a busy Tel Aviv restaurant, wounding 32 people in an attack claimed by a group affiliated to Arafat's Fatah organization.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said in a statement it had carried out the bombing in reprisal for Israel's invasion of Ramallah and vowed further attacks.
Lebanon has called on the United Nations to intervene in the ongoing Middle East conflict. This latest call comes in response to Israeli military action in Ramallah in retaliation for the massive suicide bombing Wednesday that killed 20 Israelis at a seaside resort in northern Israel. Lebanon, as chair of the just-concluded Arab summit, strongly condemned the Israeli action.
Egypt also has urged the United Nations Human Rights Commission to denounce Israeli human rights violations in Palestine, the Syrian Golan and Lebanese Shab'a Farms. In a statement to the commission, now meeting in Geneva, Egypt charged that Israel is committing flagrant human rights violations in the Palestinian lands, breaking all international humanitarian laws.
United Nations Director General Koffi Annan said: "Terrorism would not bring the Palestinian people closer to the establishment of an independent Palestinian State."
Annan then criticised Israel's use of "disproportionate lethal force" against Palestinians.
The UN Security Council condemned Israel's attacks inside Palestinian territory. It met early Sunday morning [NZ Time] emerging with a US backed resolution calling on Israel to withdraw troops from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah, and urging both parties to move immediately to a meaningful ceasefire.
Israel refused - criticising the resolution for failing to stress Palestinian responsibility for "terrorist" attacks that it said had prompted its drive into Palestinian areas.
The Palestinian Authority said the resolution was positive and demanded that Israel lift its siege of Arafat's compound at once and pull out of Ramallah and other Palestinian towns.
The Security Council insisted both sides cooperate fully with United States Special Envoy Anthony Zinni - and aim for a political settlement. It urged both parties to implement the understanding reached by the Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, as a first step towards implementation of the recommendations made by a committee chaired by former US Senator George Mitchell.
The Council also reiterated the demand of its earlier resolution, 1397, for an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction.
USA President Bush followed with a series of phone calls to world leaders expressing his "concern".
He did not contact either Sharon nor Arafat. "We are at this point because there has not been enough done to fight off terror. All the leaders in the world must stand up against terror, must do everything in their power to cut off the funding to terrorist organizations, to prevent terrorist organizations from finding safe haven. And that especially applies to Chairman Arafat. I believe he can do a lot more to prevent attacks, such as the one that just occurred in Tel Aviv," Bush said.
"I fully understand Israel's need to defend herself; I respect that. It's a country that has seen a wave of suicide bombers coming into the hearts of their cities and killing innocent people. That country has a right to defend herself… I've been assured by the Israeli government that, about, the well-being of Chairman Arafat, that he won't be harmed.
"I have heard him [Arafat] say that, well, he's confined, he can't do anything to secure, to help them secure the region. I know he's got a lot of forces, he's got a lot of people that listen to him still. And he has got to speak out clearly. He's got to make it absolutely clear that the Palestinian Authority does not support these terrorist activities, and use the security forces to prevent them from happening," Bush said.
Meanwhile the death toll mounts - Saturday night, 11 more deaths were reported in the region, bringing the toll to at least 1,123 Palestinians and 384 Israelis killed since the Palestinian revolt began.
Selwyn Manning - Editor Spectator.co.nz