RAMALLAH Ñ Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has prepared
for the prospect of an Israeli military operation to capture his
headquarters and exile him.
Palestinian sources said Arafat has ordered security at the Muqata'a, or
his PA headquarters, to be reinforced over the last two days. The sources
said this has included additional PA troops and weapons brought in and
the Muqata'a complex in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
On Thursday, the Israeli Cabinet voted to expel Arafat. The decision did
not set a timetable and officials said this would depend on political and
operational conditions, Middle East Newsline reported.
"Events of recent days have reiterated and proven again that Yasser
Arafat is a complete obstacle to any process of reconciliation between
Israel and the Palestinians," an Israeli Cabinet communique said on late
Thursday. "Israel will work to remove this obstacle in a manner, and at a
time, of its choosing."
But Arafat was said to have been alarmed by the Israeli decision. The
sources said Arafat and his aides ordered massive rallies in support of the
PA chairman, the first of which took place in the northern West Bank city of
Nablus. In addition, Arafat telephoned Arab and Western leaders to appeal
for their support.
The European Union, the United States and Russia have expressed their
opposition to the Israeli expulsion of Arafat. On Friday, U.S. ambassador to
Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, met Israeli Defense Shaul Mofaz to relay
Washington's objections to plans to expel Arafat.
"We think it would not be helpful to expel him because it would just
give him another stage to play on," State Department spokesman Richard
Boucher said on Thursday.
Still, Israel's military has stepped up preparations for the capture of
Arafat. An Israeli military force captured a PA ministry office about 300
meters from the Muqata'a complex in Ramallah and has been establishing what
appears to be a command post.
Israeli military sources said Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon has
presented to Sharon a plan to capture Arafat alive. In April 2002, Israel's
military seized the Muqata'a but did not capture Arafat who had threatened
to kill himself.