RAMALLAH, West Bank – Yasser Arafat's master bedroom took a direct hit during Israel's assault on his sprawling headquarters Thursday. A coat of dust covered the Palestinian leader's bed, the nightstand mirror was smashed and knee-high rubble littered the floor of the adjacent bathroom.
Arafat, who was not in the room at the time, suggested Israel was trying to kill him, a charge denied by the Israeli military. Israel has said in the past that it had no intention of harming Arafat.
Some of the damage was caused by a shell or rocket that punched a wreckingball-sized hole into the wall dividing the bedroom from the bathroom, about five feet from Arafat's bed. However, nearby explosions — Israeli troops blew up three buildings in the compound — might have caused further havoc.
Israeli troops raided the compound in response to a suicide bombing a day earlier in which 17 Israeli bus passengers and the assailant from the extremist Islamic Jihad group were killed. The soldiers left Arafat's headquarters after six hours. Arafat later took reporters on a tour of his living area.
In his bedroom, a thick sheet of gray dust covered the double bed.
Nearby, a night stand was scattered with medicines, including capsules for a sore throat, a leftover dish of rice, a hair brush and a photograph of Arafat lifting up his young daughter. A large mirror above the table shattered into sharp jagged pieces.
The adjoining living room where the leader eats his breakfast every day was a mess, with twisted metal hanging from the ceiling. Plaster and smashed tiles had fallen off the walls.
"This is my bedroom. This is where I ate breakfast. I was supposed to sleep here last night but I had to do some work downstairs," Arafat said. "Of course they knew where I was, everybody knows this is my bedroom."
An Israeli military spokesman, Capt. Jacob Dallal, said Arafat was not the target of the operation. "If there had been any intention of harming Arafat, it wouldn't have been a problem," he said.
Surrounded by armed guards, Arafat walked through his office building. Rubble was scattered across the floor and the ceiling buckled and cracked in places.
Arafat was in a groundfloor office with two close associates when Israeli tanks and bulldozers entered the Ramallah compound early Thursday.
Arafat called for immediate international intervention. "This is fascism, Nazism," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Attacks against headquarters ... the rooms in which we sleep. I am asking the whole international world to move quickly to stop this fearsome aggression."
Israel's Defense Ministry said it launched the raid because "it was impossible to ignore the current murderous wave of terror." The statement said that "all steps will be taken by the defense establishment and the army to stop the terror."
By daybreak, Israeli tanks pulled out of Ramallah and a few hours later Arafat emerged from his office building and flashed a V-for-victory sign to about 100 cheering civilians and security guards.
At the beginning of a large-scale invasion of the West Bank on March 29, following an earlier string of Palestinian suicide bombings, Israeli tanks smashed into the Arafat's compound, trapping the leader inside for 34 days.
Speculation has been rife that another major attack against Israel would force the Israeli government to expel Arafat but the Palestinian leader has repeatedly said he will not leave the region.
"Expel me?" the 72-year-old leader said, then laughed. "I will die here."