Israel, Palestinians clash over disarmament
The issue has become one of the main disputes over the implementation of the international peace plan known as the road map.
Palestinian Security Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan said Friday that disarming the main militant groups of Hamas and Islamic Jihad would lead to ''civil war''.
His remark came after Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon said late Thursday that Israel would make sure that the Palestinians carried out every detail specified in the road map.
In a lecture to college students in central Israel, Sharon said Israel had paid a ''heavy price'' for not being strict about Palestinian violations of the 1993 interim Oslo peace agreement.
He was referring to the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada (uprising) in late 2000 amid a deadlock in the peace process.
''We have paid for the fact that the terrorist organizations were not disarmed ... and that the intolerable incitement against Israel was not stopped,'' he added.
The road map demands that the Palestinian Authority (PA) ''confront all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure'', saying that includes the confiscation of illegal weapons.
But in an interview to the Israeli Ma'ariv daily published Friday, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell said that although the U.S. would demand Dahlan eliminate the ability to carry out terrorist attacks, ''we must be slightly patient and flexible''.
Dahlan and Palestinian Premier Mahmoud Abbas, rather than confronting them, have preferred to pressure Hamas and the Islamic Jihad into declaring a truce (hudna in Arabic). The two groups did so on June 29, albeit a short-term and conditional one.
''We must ensure that the Palestinians understand that we will not be satisfied until terror has been eliminated, not just momentarily, not only for a hudna, but permanently,'' Powell said.
But he acknowledged the difficulties Abbas and Dahlan had and added: ''The number of violent incidents has decreased significantly, as the prime minister (Sharon) himself has said more than once in his talks here. Let's not discount this: Much more quiet, period.''
Israeli soldiers meanwhile fired rubber bullets at more than 100 Israeli and Palestinian activists who protested against the security barrier Israel is building along the West Bank to prevent suicide bombers from entering it.
The protesters tried to cut the fence near the West Bank city of Tulkarm Friday afternoon. No injuries were reported.
Some 3,700 Palestinians in Israeli jails earlier threatened to go on a one-day hunger strike to press Israel for their release and protest their living conditions.
A spokeswoman for the prison's authority called the strike ''not serious'' and said that despite their announcement, only about 500 prisoners did not eat breakfast.
The protests came after several hundred Palestinian prisoners rioted in the Shikma jail near Ashkelon in southern Israel Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday, Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Minister Hisham Abdel Razeq warned of a rebellion among Palestinian prisoners if they were not released as part of the latest peace contacts between the sides. dpa ok blg jm sc
Copyright (c) 2003 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 08/01/2003 09:56:32
Copyright (c) dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH