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Archive for Friday, December 7, 2001

Arafat’s crackdown sparks resistance

December 7, 2001

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— Yasser Arafat's intensified crackdown on Islamic militants met angry resistance on his own territory Thursday, as 1,500 Hamas supporters battled Palestinian riot police for hours outside the home of the group's leader. One Hamas supporter died in an exchange of fire.

The backlash came as a U.S. envoy and the Egyptian foreign minister shuttled between Israel and the Palestinian territories, trying to stop more than a year of Palestinian-Israeli violence and bring about a truce.

Arafat faces pressure from the United States and the threat of renewed military strikes by Israel if he fails to stop militants who have carried out a wave of deadly attacks against Israelis.

Though Arafat said his forces have arrested 180 militants, Israeli officials said the leaders of violent groups remain at large.

The United States was also skeptical of Arafat's sweeps.

"The president remains deeply concerned that Palestinian jails ... are still built with bars in front with revolving doors at the back," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Palestinians insisted their efforts were sincere and for their own good.

Arafat said Thursday that the United States had given him a list of 33 militants, and most of them had been arrested. He said his police were looking for the others.

The United States has been trying to cool the Mideast conflict to keep it from interfering with its operation in Afghanistan. Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, Arafat has been trying to distance himself from Islamic militants.

Arafat met Thursday with U.S. peace envoy Anthony Zinni and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher. Both diplomats also saw Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

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