Palestinian Culture Minister Ziad Abu Amr said “some Israeli soldiers have occupied the seventh floor of the culture ministry” on Thursday morning.
Palestinian Authority spokesman for security issues, Elias Zananiri, told Aljazeera.net that the culture ministry was in a tall building overlooking the compound which houses Arafat’s office.
“This could either be a prelude to an attack or the Israelis may be merely wanting to monitor movements in the compound,” Zananiri said.
Aljazeera.net revealed on Wednesday that Arafat’s fate was hanging by a thread. Quoting senior diplomats, Aljazeera said “he may not be around in 24 hours”.
Reacting to the Israeli move, an aide to Arafat warned that any harm to the Palestinian leader would bring the region to “the edge of the abyss”.
“This could either be a prelude to an attack or the Israelis may be merely wanting to monitor movements in the compound”
The Israeli occupation of the building close to Arafat’s office comes as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was to convene a meeting of his security cabinet on Thursday, when the fate of Arafat is expected to be discussed.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said most of his cabinet colleagues now backed the expulsion of the veteran Palestinian leader.
“If there is a vote in the cabinet, there will be a majority, but I’m not sure it will be put to the vote,” Shalom told public radio on Thursday.
Israel has accused Arafat of trying to sabotage the peace process and giving the green light to attacks by Palestinian fighters.