RAMALLAH ø The Palestinian Authority has fortified the headquarters
of chairman Yasser Arafat to prepare for any military showdown with Israel.
Palestinian forces brought concrete barrels and abandoned cars to
surround Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. PA sources
said the fortification was ordered by Arafat's Force 17 praetorian guard,
responsible for the security of the chairman.
Israeli forces have deployed outside Arafat's offices and earlier this
week briefly raided the compound, Middle East Newsline reported. The sources said the Israeli troops have
engaged in what they termed threatening moves almost nightly in what
appeared to comprise psychological warfare against Arafat.
On Thursday, Palestinian bulldozers brought scores of automobile wrecks
to the PA compound. At the same time, cement trucks were filling hundreds of
barrels around Arafat's offices.
PA sources said the fortification of Arafat's headquarters was meant to
slow down any Israeli military advance so the PA chairman could call for
reinforcements and telephone his allies in Egypt and Europe. They said
Arafat believes Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was planning to raid his
offices, capture the chairman and expel him either abroad or to the Gaza
Arafat has been holed up in his Ramallah headquarters since early 2002.
Israel has allowed him to leave for abroad, but refused to guarantee that he
At a news conference, Arafat dismissed any Palestinian plan to resist an
Israeli attack on PA headquarters. He said Israel understands that he was
ready to die rather than surrender to Israeli authorities.
In Washington, the Bush administration has changed its policy toward
Arafat's prime minister, Ahmed Qurei. President George Bush plans to send
his first letter to Qurei that will outline the U.S. vision of an
U.S. officials said the letter would be the first by Bush to the PA
prime minister. They said this would represent an expansion of the
administration's dialogue with the PA.