Israel raises the stakes again

After the attack in Cisjordan on Wednesday, which killed 10 Jews, Yasser Arafat ordered for all the offices of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestinian territory to be closed and asked for “some more hours” to neutralise the militants.

Israel responded by cutting off all contact with Yasser Arafat, while at the same time Israeli tanks and troops moved to within 200 metres of his home in Ramallah, preventing him from leaving and pointing their weapons in his direction.

Furthermore, Israeli forces destroyed the Palestine Authority Radio-television station and blew up the main transmission antenna. An attempt to imprison Maruan Barguti, the leader of Al Fatah (Arafat’s faction) in Cisjordan, failed because he was not at his residence, which was occupied by the Israeli soldiers.

Meanwhile in Gaza, Israeli soldiers shot dead six more youngsters, four adolescents and two children (11 and 15 years old), according to medical sources in Rafa, southern Gaza.

The Israeli Transport Minister, Efraim Sne, declared that Yasser Arafat is “finished” as the leader of the Palestinian people as far as Israel is concerned because “he is not a serious man”. The official Israeli position seems to be to override Arafat in the hope that the Palestinians will come up with a more moderate leader from Fatah. However, in the current escalation of violence, it seems likely that there is every possibility that the more extremist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad will gain power.