Israel Planning Long-Term West Bank Re-Occupation
Published on Saturday, June 22, 2002 by Agence France Presse
Israel Planning Long-Term West Bank Re-Occupation
Israel's re-occupation of West Bank cities, code named"Determined Path", showed signs of becoming a long-term operation, drawing harsh condemnation from the Palestinian leadership.

As the Israeli army maintained its grip on six out of eight Palestinian self-rule cities, a senior official warned Saturday that Israeli civil administrative rule for the territories might follow.

Defense ministry director Amos Yaron told Israeli public radio that "if the outcome of the operations underway is a long-term presence of the army on the ground, and if (the army) must answer the needs of the civilian population, then we will examine this and provide the answers."

He was commenting on a decision by the security cabinet Friday to re-occupy "as long as necessary" Palestinian self-rule towns until anti-Israeli attacks stop."

By Saturday, Israel was partly or totally in control of Bethlehem, Jenin, Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarem and Qalqiliya. Only Hebron and Jericho were spared.

Yaron's remarks drew a storm of protests from Palestinian officials.

"Israel is pouring oil on the fire," Palestinian local affairs minister and top negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP.

"This is the Israeli scheme: to resume the occupation and destroy the Palestinian Authority and replace it with a civilian administration. This is a very dangerous development," he said.

Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo charged that Israel was planning "to impose military rule (in the West Bank) through what is being called civil administration.

"This is part of the plot adopted by (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon to put an end to the Palestinian Authority," he told AFP.

He also criticized the United States for condoning Israeli action, after US President George W. Bush said on Friday that Israel has "the right to defend herself" in retaliation for Palestinian suicide attacks.

"It is a shame that the Americans consider the Israeli action as a mere reaction, rather than see it for what it is: a bid to put an end to the Oslo (autonomy accords) and the Palestinian Authority," Abed Rabbo said.

That criticism came as a senior US official said disagreements remained among top Bush aides over the details of a new Middle East peace plan he was meant to unveil in an eagerly awaited -- but as yet unscheduled -- speech.

After Friday's security cabinet meeting, an Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity said: "I think that within a few days we will control all the West Bank and that we will stay there for a long time."

On the ground, only minor incidents were recorded in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

That followed a week of bloody violence in which 31 Israelis were killed, as Palestinian suicide bombers struck Jerusalem twice and a gunman carried out a deadly attack on a West Bank Jewish settlement.

Ten Palestinians, including children, were killed on Friday alone.

On Saturday morning, Israeli troops fired rubber bullets at a school in the Dheisheh camp near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, leaving three students with non-life-threatening injuries, medical sources said.

The incident apparently resulted from confusion over the timing of Israel lifting a curfew on Bethlehem and Dheisheh camp, school officials said.

Education officials had been pressing the Israeli authorities to allow students to take end-of-year exams, they said.

The army agreed to lift the curfew on Bethlehem for three-and-a-half hours from 9:30 am (0630 GMT), but the students headed off to school earlier than expected and the troops opened fire, the sources said.

In another West Bank incident, an Israeli tank fired at An-Najah University in Nablus, causing damage but no casualties, witnesses told AFP.

Military sources said, meanwhile, that six Palestinians had been arrested in the West Bank since Friday night, including four south of Nablus who were in possession of explosives.

Copyright 2002 AFP