Israeli army continues to blockade PNA chancellery in Ramallah

The Israeli armed forces continue to blockade Mukata, the Palestinian National Authority chancellery in Ramallah.

All the service and staff facilities at the chancellery have been destroyed by now except for the residence of the Head of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, RIA Novosti correspondent reports. Witnesses claim that the building looks like "an island amid ruins of concrete." Armored bulldozers dug a deep ditch around it. With the work completed, the heavy equipment was withdrawn from the Mukata region.

The Israelis stopped the practice of warning the residents of the neighboring houses about the imminent strikes. The observers conclude that the destruction of Mukata has stopped at the moment and the Israelis are not planning any kind of assault on Arafat's residence.

There are reports that the Israelis have allowed Palestinian maintenance crews in to fix the disrupted electricity and water supply in the building. The Israelis have also permitted deliveries of food, medicine and other living essentials to the besieged compound.

50-200 people are thought to accompany Arafat in the compound. The Israelis demand a "full check-roll" of those in Mukata and stress that they "won't lift the siege unless 19 Palestinian commanders accused of terrorist activity and links to the terrorist organizations are extradited." The first on the list is the Palestinian General, former Head of the West Bank Intelligence Service, Taoufik Tiraoui.

The Israelis demand that all the Palestinians in Mukata leave the building hands up, although, they stress, this demand "does not apply" to Arafat. He can stay at his residence for "as long as he wants," but in complete isolation.

Some Israeli military are reported to note that in the long run further destruction of the building will "restrict the freedom of Arafat's movements to three or four rooms." Nevertheless, according to the reports, Arafat accompanied by other Palestinians in Mukata continues to dismiss all statements about their possible surrender.

There are reports that Arafat has managed through intermediaries to come into contact with representatives of the Israeli Government. He promised to "clamp down on" the activists of the Palestinian radical movements, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad to stop their terrorist activity on the Israeli territory. There's information that Arafat expressed his intention to meet with the radicals right after his release on condition that the Israelis lift the Mukata siege.

Some sources report Arafat communicated with the Israeli authorities through the intermediaries from "third countries," and that his proposal is based on the schemes which eased the tensions around Mukata and the Church of the Nativity last May in Bethlehem.

Nevertheless the Israelis deny any kind of contact with Arafat, though they do not dismiss a possibility of negotiating with someone else.

Meanwhile, right-wing ministers form the Ariel Sharon Administration insist on the immediate deportation of Arafat to "some foreign country." Although moderate members of the Cabinet, including, according to some reports, the Prime Minister himself, oppose such an approach.

However, the right forces stand their ground. So, on Monday speaking on the local radio the Israeli Environmental Minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, acting on behalf of the Likud Party, stressed once again the necessity of Arafat's deportation emphasizing that was only a matter of time. "There is no such peace-making negotiator as Yasser Arafat," said Hanegbi. "This man has no right to be in the Middle East." However, another participant of the radio interview, the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres opposed the view of his coalition colleague. "We must understand," he said, "that Arafat won't let the grass grow under his feet in exile. And in the absence of their leader the Palestinians won't listen to orders from Tzachi Hanegbi. Arafat in exile will become once again a symbol of the Palestinian liberation movement posing an increased threat to the Israelis." Meanwhile the Israeli Army continues to carry on arrests of alleged terrorist associates in the Palestinian territory. So, Monday night there were reports of arrests in Ramallah, Tulkarem, Nablus and Jenin.

In Tulkarem five activists of the Islamic Jihad radical organization were detained, with Ahmed Madaoui among them who is on the Israeli list of "the most dangerous terrorists." Arrests of the Palestinians are accompanied by exchanges of fire reported to take place in many cities and villages on the West Bank.

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