JERUSALEM – Israel's Cabinet on Friday declared Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat an "enemy" and ordered up military reserves in an intense effort to isolate Arafat in his West Bank compound, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said.
In a televised news conference after an all-night session of the Israeli Cabinet, Sharon listed the Palestinian attacks that brought about the decision, starting with a suicide bombing in the seaside city of Netanya in Wednesday night at a meal for the Jewish Passover holiday, in which 21 guests were killed.
He also noted an attack Thursday night by a Palestinian gunman at a West Bank Jewish settlement, in which four Israelis were killed, and an incident that was still developing in the Gaza settlement of Netzarim, in which a Palestinian attacker stabbed two people to death.
"All this happens in a period when Israel's hand was stretched out in peace," Sharon said.
Referring to a truce effort by U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni, he said Israel was prepared to do everything it could for a cease-fire, "but all Israel got in return was terrorism, terrorism and more terrorism."
Sharon said that "Arafat is an enemy, and at this stage he will be isolated." He would not answer a question about what the next stage might be.
Announcing the decision to mobilize reserves, a sign of an extended and large-scale operation, Sharon did not say how many would be called up. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said there was no intention to capture territory; rather, "to fight against the terrorist infrastructure."
Even before the Cabinet decision was announced, Israeli tanks entered the West Bank town of Ramallah and encircled Arafat's compound. A bulldozer destroyed part of the wall around the compound, and Israeli forces were inside. Palestinians said two guards were wounded.