Tanks are positioned near the compound in Ram Allah which has been the scene of many an Israeli siege – but some Middle East observers believe Arafat could be forcibly removed and exiled … or even assassinated.
Expelling the Palestinian leader would be a huge mistake, announced Egyptian President Hosni Moubarak on Thursday as news of the under-siege Arafat’s predicament filtered to the outside world.
Israeli soldiers stormed and occupied the seventh floor of the Palestinian culture ministry giving the occupiers a bird’s eye view over Arafat’s HQ in readiness for a military strike.
The 74-year-old Arafat has been under siege at the compound for the past 20 months. Both Israel and the United States have refused to negotiate with him during the current peace process.
|President Arafat and PM Quraya’s
government may not last the day
Israeli soldiers in the culture ministry are now just 300 metres from Arafat’s office, according to Palestinian Authority Spokesman, Elias Zananiri.
“This could either be a prelude to an attack or the Israelis may be merely wanting to monitor movements in the compound,” Zananiri told Aljazeera.net.
An Israeli newspaper called on the government to kill Palestinian President Yasir Arafat.
The Jerusalem Post told its readers on Thursday: “We must kill Yasir Arafat because the world leaves us no alternative … if we are going to be condemned in any case, we might as well do it.”
The editorial justified its incitement to murder, saying “the current jihad against us is being fuelled by the perception that Israel is blocked from taking decisive action to defend itself”.
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.
Other senior Israeli officials have been pushing for Arafat’s expulsion as well, and a western diplomat told Aljazeera.net on Wednesday he believed the next 24 hours could see Arafat’s removal or death.
But Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saib Uraiqat told the BBC on Wednesday, Arafat would rather be martyred than leave the Palestinian territories.
Too close for comfort – Arafat is
Other members of the Palestinian leadership, granted freedom of movement by Israeli occupiers, agreed to form a National Salvation Government.
Its cabinet of ministers is to be headed by Ahmad Quraya and have eight ministers only.
One minister, Nabil Shaath, said: “All Palestinian sides should unite and form the new government to deal with the escalating danger facing the Palestinians; such as the mounting Israeli attempts to assassinate activists and expel Arafat.”
“We are holding contacts with the United States, European, Russian and Arab leaders to pressure Israel not to oust Arafat,” he added.