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Update: On the Ground in Israel

Tristana Moore of Independent Television News reports on the day's events in the Middle East.

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    Ramallah today; Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at journalists trying to enter Yasser Arafat's headquarters. The journalists were trying to cover the American envoy Anthony Zinni's talks with Yasser Arafat, who's still trapped in his compound in Ramallah. These were the only pictures of today's meeting.

    Anthony Zinni has the distinction of being the first foreign diplomat allowed to visit Arafat in the last week. The Palestinians said both men talked about the Israeli army incursions and the need for a cease-fire and, crucially, they agreed to meet again. But Israeli forces have been on the offensive again today, undermining any diplomatic initiative. This was Hebron.

    An Israeli helicopter gunship fired a missile at a car carrying, it is believed, a member of Islamic Jihad. He escaped but five civilians were injured. Israeli tanks have moved into all Palestinian-controlled areas, apart from Gaza and Jericho, but the army hasn't ruled out intensifying its sweep. The Israeli army's take on Bush's speech today was that the American President wasn't suggesting that its military operation should stop immediately.

  • MAJ. GEN. EILAND, Israeli Army Spokesman:

    And I can't believe that his intent is not that we will suddenly stop operation. We still have forces. We know that in order to achieve everything that we want, we need to have a few weeks. We are not sure that this time will be available.


    In Bethlehem, Israeli troops are still locked into a standoff at the Church of the Nativity, where several hundred armed Palestinians are holed up. As part of what Israel calls "Operation Defensive Shield," the army today said that over the last week its confiscated around 1,300 automatic rifles, 50 anti-tank grenades and explosives. The Israeli military says it's also holding 900 Palestinian prisoners.

    The aim, Israel says, to crack down on what it calls the Palestinian terror infrastructure — and now President Bush accusing Yasser Arafat of betraying his people by not renouncing terror. But the Palestinians say they have no hope of doing this — as Ariel Sharon is out to destroy the Palestinian Authority.

  • SAEB EREKAT, Senior Palestinian Negotiator:

    Sharon's end game is to declare, to destroy our abilities, to destroy our headquarters, our security vehicles even, to arrest our security personnel, and then to ask Palestinians must do more. Must do more with what?


    In Jerusalem today, there's been heavy security around public places, Israelis bracing themselves for another suicide attack. The Israeli government says it will continue its military operation until a "decisive blow is dealt to Palestinian militants."