U.S. Calls for Immediate Cease-Fire
The President’s call comes after new fighting erupted in the region following the lynching of three Israeli soldiers by an angry mob. The violence is some of the worst in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the 1967 War.
A spokesman for the Israeli army says four reserve soldiers made a wrong turn and ended up near the center of the town of Ramallah, where Palestinian police detained them.
As rumors spread that the Israelis belonged to an undercover army unit that tracks Palestinian fugitives, more than 1,500 Palestinians reportedly rushed the police station. A short time later, the bodies of the two soldiers were thrown out a window. A third soldier was returned to Israeli authorities. The body of the fourth soldier was found later today.
Israel attacks Palestinian targets
Israeli forces responded with attacks on Palestinian targets in the West Bank city of Ramallah and in Gaza City hours after the two soldiers were killed.
One missile struck just 50 yards from Arafat’s headquarters, with the Palestinian leader inside, his aides said. Arafat was not harmed.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to wounded Palestinians at Gaza’s Shifa hospital, Arafat told reporters that the Palestinian people would remain strong and pursue their quest for an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.
“Our people don’t care and don’t hesitate to continue their march to Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian independent state,” Arafat said.
At least 97 people have been killed since Sept. 28, when Israeli right-wing politician Ariel Sharon visited a Jerusalem shrine holy to Muslims and Jews. All but seven of the dead were Palestinians or Israeli Arabs.
The latest attacks came hours after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that Barak and Arafat had agreed to a high-level security meeting chaired by the head of the U.S. Central Intelligence.
“This doesn’t facilitate matters, in fact it does complicate the issues we are trying to resolve,” Annan, in Lebanon on a mediation mission, said of the killings of the two Israelis.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, President Clinton said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the greatest tragedies, but it can be solved.
“Now is the time to stop the bloodshed, to restore calm, to return to dialogue and ultimately to the negotiating table. The alternative to the peace process is now no longer merely hypothetical. It is unfolding today before our very eyes,” he said.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair also urged both sides to take heed of the violence return to the negotiating table.