|The News Line: Feature
Tuesday, 6 November 2007
RESISTANCE LAUNCHES ‘AUTUMN OF GAZA’ CAMPAIGN
Chief PLO Negotiator Saeb Erekat met with US Assistant Secretary of State David Walsh and American Consul General Jake Wallacey on Sunday.
The meeting took place ahead of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’ meeting on Monday with visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Erekat on Sunday stressed the need to resolve the core issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Erekat, who is head of the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department, reiterated his position that Israel should relinquish control of the lands occupied in 1967 in order to create a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, in addition to resolving the fate of Palestinian refugees and water issues.
Erekat expressed appreciation for US ‘encouragement’ of the Palestinians.
He also called on the US and other members of the Quartet to work towards the implementation of the US-backed Roadmap for Peace.
The chief negotiator pointed out that Israel’s obligations under the first phase of the roadmap include a freeze on settlement construction and removal of settlements built since March 2001.
Erekat also called for reopening Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, as well as restoring the integrity of Palestinian control in Areas A and B, as outlined in the Olso agreements.
Area A, including the Gaza Strip and portions of the West Bank, is designated for full Palestinian control.
Palestinian civil authority and Israeli security control are supposed to apply to area B.
In reality, these designations have been blurred by frequent Israeli incursions.
Finally, Erekat called on the international community to ensure the provision of basic humanitarian needs to the Gaza Strip, including fuel, food, medicine, electricity and water.
Israeli authorities tightened the ongoing siege on Gaza last week by cutting supplies of fuel in half.
He also called for Israel to allow Gaza residents the freedom to enter and exit the territory.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heard a strong message from Israel on Sunday that security must precede the creation of a Palestinian state, as she sought to ‘bridge gaps’ ahead of the US-sponsored ‘peace conference’ due this month.
Making her eighth visit this year for shuttle diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians, Rice lowered expectations of an imminent agreement on a joint document for a planned conference in Annapolis, Maryland.
Welcoming Rice, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said: ‘The meaning is security for Israel first and then the establishment of a Palestinian state because nobody wants to see another terror state in the region.
‘Though we need to find a common ground with the pragmatic Palestinian leaders, they need to understand that the implementation of future understandings will be implemented only according to the roadmap.’
Israeli negotiators, headed by Livni, and their Palestinian counterparts have been divided for weeks over a joint document they are supposed to draw up for the meeting billed as aiming at reviving the ‘peace process’.
The Palestinians want the document to tackle the most intractable problems of the conflict, namely borders, refugees and the status of Jerusalem, and a timetabled implementation, while Israel favours a looser statement.
Rice told reporters travelling on her plane to Tel Aviv late on Saturday: ‘I don’t expect to reach an agreement on a document.
‘They are going through some knotty discussions and I think those knotty discussions are going to continue for a while, but I will go out and see if there is anything that I can do to help this move along.
‘They are working, they are working a lot. I just want to help make sure that they are working in a straight line ahead.’
Rice was scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and international Middle East envoy Tony Blair, in Jerusalem on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Palestinian fighters claimed on Sunday to have launched a total of 12 homemade projectiles at the Israeli border town of Sderot by mid-day, causing a power outage but no injuries.
Fatah-linked and Islamic Jihad fighters claimed responsibility for launching nine projectiles at Sderot.
Some of the rockets damaged a power installation and another landed in the yard of an Israeli home.
The Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Brigades and Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades said the attack was part of a campaign they are calling ‘Autumn of Gaza’, a response to the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip.
The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also said they launched three projectiles at Sderot.
Four Palestinians, including three unarmed civilians, were killed on Sunday in an Israeli attack on the northern Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials claimed the assault was aimed at stopping projectile attacks.
The Palestine National Authority (PNA) President Abbas-appointed prime minister condemned the Israeli air strike.
Speaking from Ramallah, Sa’di, Al-Karnaz the Secretary General of the office of the Palestinian Prime Minister, said Sunday’s attack, along with moves towards cutting of vital supplies of electricity and fuel to the Gaza Strip amount to an escalation of hostilities that threaten the peace process.
Al-Karnaz said such actions resulted in ‘serious doubts on the credibility of the Israeli side’.
Al-Karnaz called on the United States, European Union, and the United Nations to pressure Israel to stop it’s ‘disregard for the lives of Palestinians’, for the sake of peace and stability in the entire Middle East.
Israeli forces also invaded the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem at dawn on Sunday, firing shots and storming Palestinian houses.
Local residents said the soldiers entered the city centre, raiding houses belonging to Tulkarem residents Saleh Al-Kholi and Bassam Badran, searching for Palestinians considered ‘wanted’ by the Israeli government.
The soldiers later withdrew from Tulkarem.
No injuries or arrests were reported.
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