RAMALLAH, West Bank – Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said Saturday that the United States must exert greater pressure on Israel to stop military strikes against Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the Palestinian leader also said that his security forces have arrested 17 of 33 Palestinian militants the United States wants arrested, and that the crackdown is continuing. The 33 names were given to the Palestinians by U.S. envoys earlier this week.
In all, the Palestinians said they have rounded up about 180 members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two militant groups responsible for sending dozens of suicide bombers to Israel in recent years, including four this week that killed 26 people.
Israel has dismissed the Palestinian arrests as a sham, saying Palestinian police rounded up mostly minor activists, and that the masterminds of terror were still at large.
Asked whether the United States has given the Palestinians guarantees that Israeli air strikes would stop while the arrests are being carried out, Arafat said: "They (the American envoys) said they will do their best. But the Israelis are not listening to anybody until now."
Arafat said he hoped the United States would take a firmer position with the Israeli government, and bar Israel from using American-made weapons in strikes against the Palestinians. In recent air raids, Israel used U.S.-made F-15 and F1-6 fighter planes.
"I am looking for them (the Americans) to make more pressure," Arafat said, adding that he hoped for the United States "not to let them (use) these American weapons against us."