The U.N., the European Union and Arab leaders have all condemned the Israeli move, calling on the military to immediately withdraw its forces from the compound. The U.S., which earlier had endorsed a U.N. resolution critical of the occupation, later seemed to offer continued support to the Jewish state.
As news of another suicide bombing broke, this one at a Tel Aviv café, President Bush demanded Palestinian leader Arafat to publicly do more to end terrorism while calling on the Israeli government to ensure there is a political path to peace as it exerts its right to self-defense.
“I fully understand Israel’s need to defend itself … but as she does so, I urge that the Israeli government makes sure that there’s a path to peace,” Bush told reporters, speaking publicly for the first time since the Israel incursion into Ramallah. “There’s got to be a peaceful solution and I have been assured by the Israeli government that Chairman Arafat … won’t be harmed.”
Echoing sentiments conveyed yesterday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, President Bush called on Arafat and other Arab leaders in the region to end their support of the terrorism the president said is the root of the continuing crisis.
“[Yasser Arafat] has got to make it absolutely clear that the Palestinian Authority does not support terrorists … I think that Chairman Arafat can do a lot more,” Mr. Bush said. “The Iranians must step up and stop fostering terrorism. The Syrians must participate.”
The president’s words came just hours after the U.S. endorsed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Israel to withdraw its troops from all Palestinian cities including Ramallah.
The 14-0 vote, at 4:30am EST, ended a marathon emergency session called at the request of the Palestinians after Israeli tanks and troops entered Arafat’s compound.
It was the second time in a month that the U.S., Israel’s closest ally, approved a Mideast resolution, after years of abstaining and vetoing council measures critical of Israel.
During the debate, Deputy U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham warned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his government “to carefully consider the consequences” of attacking Arafat’s headquarters.
The adopted resolution called on “both parties to move immediately to a meaningful cease-fire; calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah; and calls upon the parties to cooperate fully with Special Envoy Zinni” to implement an immediate cease-fire and start negotiations for a political settlement.
Syria, a hard-line opponent of Israel, refused to vote on the resolution saying it was not critical enough of the Israeli incursion, marking the first time in 42 years, a member of the security council boycotted a vote.
“We tried our best to get a resolution that would address the aspirations of the Arab group, but unfortunately we did not find it to the level that we hoped,” the Syrian ambassador said.
The diplomatic activity came as violence and confusion appeared to reign in parts of Israel and the West Bank. In Tel Aviv, a suicide bomber detonate explosives outside a downtown café. The bombing killed the attacker and reportedly wounded 29, at least six seriously. According to Israel television, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for the blast.
In the West Bank, Israeli forces rounded up hundreds of Palestinian men for questioning as sporadic gunfights broke out in and around Ramallah.
Two other Palestinians heading into Israel to reportedly conduct a suicide attack got into a gunbattle with Israeli police at the edge of the West Bank. An Israeli officer and the two Palestinians were killed.
At Arafat’s compound, the Palestinian leader remained confined to a series of offices on the second floor of the compound with Israeli forces occupying the first and third floors.
In a candle-lit interview with Reuters television, Arafat remained defiant.
“I appeal to the international community to stop this aggression against our people, this military escalation, this killing,” Arafat told Reuters television in English.
“Together we will march until one of our children raises the Palestinian flag over the churches and mosques of Jerusalem,” he added later in Arabic.
Reports of gunfire from the compound and Israeli return-fire continued to emerge. A CNN reporter said he saw the body of one Israeli security official leaving the compound Saturday during the day.
The Israeli military also displayed a cache of weapons it said was seized from Arafat’s compound, including machine guns, automatic rifles, mortars and more than 40 rocket-propelled grenades. The Israeli officials said all the weapons were illegal under past peace accords.