RAY SUAREZ: The Israeli assault on Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat's Ramallah headquarters began early today. The move came after Israel's cabinet, in an emergency session last night, announced widespread action would be taken against Arafat's Palestinian Authority -- that, in response to the latest spate of suicide attacks that have left nearly 30 Israelis dead in three days.
ARIEL SHARON, Prime Minister, Israel (Translated): The government has approved principals for a plan for a wide military operation against the Palestinian terror. I want to tell you that in these very moments, the IDF forces are in the Mukataa, the center of Arafat's rule in Ramallah. Israel will operate to defeat the infrastructure of Palestinian terror and all its parts and components, and therefore will carry out wide activity until it reaches the goal. Arafat, who established a coalition of terror against Israel, is an enemy, and at this stage will be isolated. The government had approved recruiting of reservists as is required from the operational needs, in order to allow the IDF a continuous activity for an extended length of time and in additional terror centers.
RAY SUAREZ: Today, after Israeli tanks and bulldozers flattened the gates and shelled the walls surrounding Arafat's sprawling West Bank compound, Israeli troops stormed several buildings inside, including the one where the Palestinian leader was hiding. Gun battles erupted between Arafat's security guards and Israeli soldiers. Five Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed. At least 25 of Arafat's guards were wounded. During the Israeli offensive, Arafat huddled with his closest advisers in a windowless ground floor hideout. In a telephone interview with al Jazeera Television, he said would rather die a martyr than be arrested or forced into exile by Israel. Arafat also said millions of Palestinian martyrs are headed to Jerusalem. And it wasn't long before there was a suicide bombing in the holy city.
A teenage girl blew herself up at the entrance to a supermarket, killing two people and wounding at least 20 others. Elsewhere in Jerusalem, Israeli security forces stormed the al Aqsa mosque compound, firing tear gas and using stun grenades to disperse stone-throwing Muslim worshippers. In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Israeli Prime Minister Sharon had promised him Arafat would not be harmed. Secretary Powell also said it was the recent Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israel civilians that ended recent progress in peace negotiations.
COLIN POWELL: That's what has caused this crisis to come upon us, not the absence of a political way forward, but terrorism in its rawest form. We have spoken out clearly and do so again now, for Chairman Arafat to act, act against those responsible for these acts, and to make clear to the Palestinian people that terror and violence must halt now. All those who support peace must reinforce this message.
While we understand the Israeli government need to respond to these acts of terror and the right of the Israeli government to decide what actions best serve the interest of the Israeli people, we call on Prime Minister Sharon and his government to carefully consider the consequences of those actions. Chairman Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian people, and his leadership is now even more central to trying to find a way out of this tragic situation.
RAY SUAREZ: The Secretary said that U.S. Envoy Anthony Zinni would remain in the region and continue talking with both sides.