Israel claims Arafat not a military target
* Troops kill three Palestinians
* Another killed in car bomb explosion
* Sharon, Bush to meet next month
MEXICO CITY: Israeli security chief Tzahi Hanegbi said on Thursday that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is not a military target. “Arafat is not a target,” Hanegbi told reporters.
“We hope that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority will convince Arafat to step down or to be a president of the Palestinian Authority (in order to) allow practical forces to enhance security mechanisms,” the public security minister said.
Then “someone else will take the lead and will be able to force the security mechanism of the Palestinian Authority to comply with their commitment and fight terrorism,” he said.
“We are frustrated by the fact he is still in power.”
“There are several issues on the mutual agenda, Israel-Mexico, that has to do with fighting crimes like money laundering, narcotics, Israelis that fled to Mexico using the fact there’s no extradition treaty between both countries.
“I will probably raise issues that I raised today: the need of cooperation, intelligence-wise and military-wise, in finding solutions to very threats of terrorism.”
Two Palestinians who swam up to a group of Jewish settlements in the south of the Gaza Strip were killed by Israeli soldiers on late Thursday, a military spokesman announced Friday.
They were spotted wading ashore near Gush Katif and died in an exchange of fire, the spokesman said. The soldiers found weapons including anti-tank rockets near the bodies, he added.
A car exploded in the West Bank city of Nablus on Friday, killing a Palestinian militant who was apparently rigging it as a bomb, witnesses and local police said. The Israeli army said its forces were not operating in the immediate area at the time.
Witnesses identified the militant as 22-year-old Ahmed al-Abed, a member of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction. They said he was cut in half by the blast.
“Explosives were in the vehicle and it looks as if he was preparing it as a car bomb,” said a Palestinian policeman at the scene. The car exploded about 500 metres from an Israeli military checkpoint. A young Palestinian stone-thrower was shot dead Friday by Israeli troops in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, Palestinian medical and security sources said.
Israeli police have banned access to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to Palestinians under the age of 45, fearing disturbances during Friday prayers following the assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
“This measure, which does not affect women, was decided after receiving information that young Palestinians were planning demonstrations,” a police spokesman said on Friday.
President George W Bush will meet Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on April 14 and is expected to back an Israeli plan to unilaterally withdraw settlements in the Gaza Strip, people involved in the deliberations said on Friday.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s top aide Dov Weisglass came back empty-handed from talks in the United States aimed at securing backing for the so-called “disengagement plan”, the Israeli media reported on Friday.
After three days of talks with White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Weisglass failed to obtain Washington’s support for the plan, a package of unilateral measures, including a withdrawal from most of the Gaza Strip. —Agenciess