Sharon Challenges Arafat to Stand by His Word
JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that Yasser Arafat's call for calm has not produced any letup in attacks against Israelis, adding that the Palestinian leader has not cracked down on militants.
"Israel is equally fed up with words and promises," Sharon said Monday night in a statement issued by his office. "Israel wants actions and results."
Arafat demanded an end to attacks against Israel in a speech Sunday, and pledged to arrest Palestinians who carried out shootings or bombings.
But violence has continued. Three Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli troops Monday, including a 12-year-old boy, and Arafat accused Israel of stepping up its military actions.
Also, four Israelis were shot and wounded, including a 3-year-old boy, in a trio of roadside shooting attacks carried out by Palestinian gunmen Monday and Tuesday.
In the most recent incident, an Israeli motorist was lightly wounded when his car was hit by gunfire Tuesday morning near the West Bank city of Nablus.
Sharon's Cabinet broke off contacts with Arafat last week and declared him "irrelevant" following a deadly attack on an Israeli bus. The Israeli government has reacted with skepticism to Arafat's speech, saying Israel's military will continue its own pursuit of militants.
Israel has repeatedly accused Arafat of failing to act against militants. Palestinian authorities say they have detained 180 suspected militants in recent weeks, though Israel counters that there has been no reduction in attacks.
In a leaflet, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, associated with Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for two shooting attacks Monday, saying they were retaliation for the shooting deaths of Palestinians earlier in the day.
Also, two militant groups rejected Arafat's cease-fire call.
Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine issued a joint statement rejecting Arafat's call to stop attacks and suicide bombings, according to a PFLP official.
Arafat's speech was "very bad, it indicated defeat," said Abdel Halim Izzedine, an Islamic Jihad leader in Jenin in the northern West Bank.
"To declare that our martyrs are not martyrs and they did a bad thing, this we cannot accept," he said in a reference to Arafat's declaration that his government has always denounced suicide bombings.
Said Siam, a Hamas official, said he understood the pressure Arafat is under, but "the Palestinian people will not accept death without self-defense."
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the latest shooting deaths of the three Palestinians part of the Israeli "plan to destroy the peace process" and appealed to the United States to send envoy Anthony Zinni back to the area.
Zinni left over the weekend after nearly three fruitless weeks of trying to arrange a truce.
In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called on Arafat to follow up his speech. "They were constructive words indeed, but what's necessary now is for him to act on them," Fleischer said.