Barak Agrees to Pull Back Armaments in Talks With Arafat
Oct. 4 - After a marathon session of talks in Paris, negotiators today
struck a tentative deal to end nearly a week of Israeli-Palestinian
violence that has claimed more than 60 lives.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in a move to quell the violence,
agreed in a joint meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to
withdraw Israeli armaments from the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli officials
The agreement, to be initialed under the supervision of U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after lengthy three-way talks, marks
a step toward dispelling mistrust that has imperiled already shaky
peacemaking efforts between Israel and the Palestinians.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said talks would
be continued Thursday in Egypt, with the participation of Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak. Albright is also expected to attend the talks.
The agreement came after Arafat briefly stormed out of the meeting
today. Albright was able to persuade him to return.
A Reuters correspondent on the phone with a Palestinian negotiator at
the U.S. ambassador's residence heard Arafat rushing out of the talks and
jumping into his car shouting, "This is humiliation. I cannot accept it!"
Albright was heard in the background running out after Arafat,
shouting to residence guards: "Shut the gates! Shut the gates!"
Once the gates to the courtyard of the elegant residence in central
Paris were closed, Arafat got out of his car and returned to the residence
for another meeting with Barak and Albright, the Palestinian negotiator
Asked about the walkout, U.S. officials had no comment, while an
Israeli official said only that the delegations had split up for
The walkout came as Albright, Arafat and Barak met for their first
three-way meeting since this summer's summit at Camp David in Maryland.
Barak and Arafat met without Albright last month in a session that was
called exceptionally cordial - but unsubstantive.
The meeting was a bid to halt the renewed violence raging in the
Middle East for the past six days that has left more than 60 people dead,
most of them Palestinians.
In Paris today, Albright held two rounds of separate meetings with
the Barak and Arafat and then convened a three-way session.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was due in Paris today, also
planned to meet the two leaders as part of the diplomatic push for peace.
And Arafat and Barak met separately with French President Jacques
Arafat had thrown the trilateral meeting into doubt by demanding that
Israel first agree to an outside inquiry into the worst Israeli-Arab
violence in four years. He told journalists he wanted "an international
investigation and protection."
Barak, however, said he saw no need for an international inquiry.
"We hold Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority responsible
for the initiation of the wave of violence and we believe the Palestinian
leadership has to make up its mind whether they intend to reach a peace
agreement," he said.
But Barak said he could accept American ideas calling for Israeli and
Palestinian security teams to "sit together to clarify what happened."
Tensions Remain High
Meanwhile, tensions remained high in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the
scene of fierce battles over the past six days.
Israeli attack helicopters fired rockets at Palestinian demonstrators
at the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip, killing one young protester,
Netzarim has been described as a war zone during the fierce fighting.
Two Palestinians were fatally shot before dawn near the West Bank
town of Ramallah. In addition, two Palestinian men died today from wounds
suffered in clashes a day earlier.
An Israeli bus also came under fire in the West Bank near Jerusalem
and one passenger was wounded, police said.
And a brief gunfight also erupted today at Joseph's Tomb, a small
Israeli compound in the West Bank town of Nablus that has come under
almost daily attack.
However, Palestinian security forces, who have been scarce in recent
days, worked to keep Palestinians away from the compound. The Palestinian
forces ordered people to leave the area, and instead of hundreds of young
men hanging out near the tomb, the streets were largely empty except for
the smoldering remains of burnt tires.
Hamas Makes a Threat
Meanwhile, the militant Palestinian group Hamas called for confrontations
to intensify Friday, when the mosques are full on the Muslim Sabbath.
"Friday will be a day of distinct escalation and clashes," Hamas
warned in a statement. "We request the preachers to allocate the Friday
sermon to Jerusalem and al-Aqsa and the duty of our people and nation
Al-Aqsa is part of the mosque complex where violent clashes began
last Friday, the day after hard-line Israeli leader Ariel Sharon visited
the compound, which is also holy to Jews.
An Israeli soldier had been killed in an unrelated bomb explosion in
the Gaza Strip a day earlier.
Key issues such as the future status of Jerusalem and the fate of
Palestinian refugees have blocked an agreement to end 52 years of
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Trouble in Damascus
DAMASCUS, Syria, Oct. 4 - Some 1,000 university students pelted the
U.S. Embassy in Damascus with stones, tree branches and bags of
rubbish to protest the death of scores of Palestinians in clashes
with Israeli security forces over the past week.
Anti-riot police used batons and tear gas to stop the
demonstrators from storming the embassy in the upscale Abu Romana
area in central Damascus. But one was able to climb onto the roof of
the three-story building in an attempt to bring down the U.S. flag.
"He was partially successful in lowering it before police and
embassy security detained him," Steve Seche, an embassy spokesman,
told The Associated Press. The protester was later handed over to
Seche said no casualties were reported among staffers at the
embassy, which had closed before the arrival of the demonstrators.
He said he did not know whether the embassy would reopen Thursday.
A few of the demonstrators were slightly injured in scuffles
with police and by flying stones.
In today's demonstration, some 500 policemen in full riot gear
stood guard outside the embassy as the students from the University
of Damascus shouted "Down, down America" and "Damn you, America,
this darkness will not last forever."
Some students burned drawings of Israeli flags while others
threw bags filled with rubbish from nearby houses.
Street protests are rare in Syria, which is usually under tight
security control. It was not clear whether today's protest had been
sanctioned by authorities.
- The Associated Press