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Israel steps up attacks as Arafat orders arrests; MIDDLE EAST.

ISRAEL stepped up attacks on Palestinian targets yesterday as Yasser Arafat ordered arrests that may lead to him being freed from "house arrest."

Missiles and tank shells targeted Palestinian Authority buildings, including Arafat's West Bank HQ, and troops entered Gaza City for the first time in 17 months of fighting.

Five Palestinian civilians, three gunmen and an Israeli Arab man were killed.

Inspecting the damage to a VIP lounge of his compound in the town of Ramallah, a defiant Arafat said, "These criminal attacks aim to destroy the determination and unity of the Palestinians.

"They don't know that we as a people are undefeated.

"We don't care about jets or tanks or missiles or explosions."

The 72-year-old Palestinian leader suffers from an illness that causes tremors and was supported by two aides as he inspected the rubble.

Acting on Arafat's orders, Palestinian security forces arrested three men the Israelis accuse of assassinating a cabinet minister last October.

Israel had said it would only allow Arafat to leave Ramallah, to which he has been confined since December, if he arrests Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi's killers.

But yesterday Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's adviser, Raanan Gissin, appeared to move the goal posts and said Arafat would only be able to leave Ramallah if he put the suspects on trial.

The new wave of Israeli strikes came after Sharon promised his disoriented nation a "different course of action" to stop Palestinian attacks.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 22, 2002
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