Background: Stalemate Broken
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JIM LEHRER: The deal to allow Arafat to leave his Israeli surrounded compound. It was agreed to hours before the Israelis occupied the West Bank town of Hebron. We begin with a report on that action by John Irvine of Independent Television News.
JOHN IRVINE: By late this afternoon, the invasion was complete. It had taken the army just a few hours to seize control here. We found an empty town center. Tens of thousands of people had been forced to abandon the streets. A strict curfew gave the Israeli army free reign and soldiers have been carrying out house-to- house searches. Many Palestinian men have been arrested and taken away for questioning.
The operation is retaliation for the weekend killing by Hamas of four Israeli civilians, including a child. So far in Hebron, at least nine Palestinians have died. The incursion follows another appeal by President Bush for the army to withdraw from all Palestinian territory. Palestinians say the incursion is an act of bad faith because it follows the reaching of a compromise that will end the Israeli siege of Yasser Arafat. Under the deal, six men wanted by Israel will be held in a Palestinian prison guarded by British and American wardens.
JIM LEHRER: At the State Department this afternoon, Secretary of State Powell described the negotiations aimed at allowing chairman Arafat to leave his Ramallah headquarters.
COLIN POWELL: The details are being worked out. A British advance team has arrived in the region. They will be in discussions with both the Israelis and the Palestinians.
We are dispatching an American representative from the State Department to join in those discussions, and I would expect that within the next 24 to 48 hours all of the various details will be worked out and hopefully a transfer will take place that will then allow Chairman Arafat to have the flexibility needed for movement around the occupied territories so he can take up his responsibilities once again to end the violence, end terrorism, and to rebuild the functioning structures… recreate functioning structures within the Palestinian Authority so that we can get back to a path of security, a path of negotiations and a path that will allow humanitarian reconstruction aid to come into the region.