Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is effectively under siege today as the Israeli military continues its onslaught onthe Gaza Strip and West Bank. Israel unleashed air strikes in retaliation for Palestinian suicide bombings, and threemissiles hit 50 yards from Yasser Arafat ’s office as the Palestinian leader worked inside.
Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, warned Arafat last night that he was engaged in a war that could end in hisown destruction, hours after Israeli attack helicopters struck Arafat’s Gaza residence. Israeli F-16 jet fightersscreamed over the West Bank town of Jenin, bombing a building belonging to Arafat’s police forces. The landing stripat Gaza airport–used by Arafat to make international trips–was targeted in raids early this morning and tankswere sent into Ramallah and Nablus on the West Bank.
Israel launched massive air raids across the West Bank and Gaza City, with F-16 war planes attacking Gaza City andApache helicopters rocketing Palestinian security offices in the southern Gaza Strip and on towns in the West Bank.The helicopters destroyed Arafat’s three personal helicopters in Gaza City while bulldozers ploughed up the runway atPalestinian international airport.
In his televised address last night, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon likened the attacks on Palestine to US attacks onAfghanistan, and said that Arafat bore responsibility for the attacks. Over the weekend, suicide bombers killed 26Israelis and wounded nearly 200. Hamas claimed responsibility, and said they were revenge for Israel’s assassination11 days ago of the Hamas military commander in the West Bank.
The White House said yesterday that "Israel has a right to defend herself," while denying that President Bush hadeffectively encouraged Israel’s attack. When he met Sharon on Sunday, President Bush notably omitted any call forIsraeli restraint, and administration officials didn’t protest yesterday’s attacks.
- Salim Tamari, Palestinian sociologist at Bir Zeit University and director of the Institute of JerusalemStudies.