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Late Breaking:

Arafat Backing Down from Agreement with U.S.


PA leader Yasir Arafat has already begun backing out of the agreement with the United States by which six persons are be handed over to the custody of U.S. and UK agents to ensure they serve prison sentences.

Arafat is required to turn over four PFLP terrorists involved in the assassination of Rechavam Ze'evi, as well as Fuad Shubaki and PFLP leader Ahmed Sadat, responsible for the Karin-A weapons freighter. Arafat has already announced the Karin-A suspects would not be turned over to American custody.

Palestinian Prisoners to be Guarded by Americans, Britons

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Preparations are underway to implement a U.S.-brokered deal to end the Israeli military siege of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat's West Bank compound. Under the plan, six Palestinian prisoners are to be placed under the guard of American and British personnel.

Under the American plan, accepted by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, British and American guards are to be dispatched to the West Bank. The guards will monitor six Palestinian prisoners to ensure they stay behind bars.

Four of the prisoners have been convicted by a makeshift Palestinian military court of assassinating Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi; the fifth is the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmed Saadat. His group has claimed responsibility for the murder. The sixth is one of Arafat's top financial advisers, Fuad Shobaki, who has been linked to a failed attempt to smuggle weapons from Iran to the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said that the six will be moved soon from Arafat's Ramallah compound to a jail in Jericho in the West Bank.

Israel's defense minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, said that Israeli troops will withdraw soon from Arafat's Ramallah offices, and that, in fact, the Palestinian leader is now free to travel wherever he chooses.

Arafat has been a virtual prisoner in Ramallah since December, when Israeli tanks blockaded his headquarters, demanding the extradition of the wanted Palestinians.

Annan, Israel Still Discussing U.N. Jenin Team

By VOA News

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is trying to persuade Israel to cooperate with the U.N. fact-finding team awaiting word that it can go to the Jenin refugee camp.

Annan told reporters in New York Monday that he thinks it is urgent for the team go in and find out what happened during Israel's offensive in the camp last month.

Palestinians said Israeli forces massacred hundreds of civilians. But Israel said about 50 Palestinians were killed as its soldiers battled Palestinian gunmen.

The U.N. team, now in Geneva, was scheduled to go to Jenin Sunday but canceled their flight after the Israeli cabinet voted not to cooperate with the mission.

Israel and U.N. officials differ on several ground rules for the mission, including whether the United Nations or Israel itself chooses the Israeli witnesses to be interviewed.

The U.N. Security Council has said it expects a "positive answer" from Israel on whether it will cooperate with the fact-finding mission. The council held an emergency session late Sunday to debate a resolution demanding Israel work with the team. They later gave Annan another 24 hours to try to work things out. The three-man team, led by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, has been waiting in Geneva to head to Jenin. Other members include former International Red Cross President Cornelio Sommaruga, and the former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata.

Retired U.S. Maj. Gen. William Nash is the team's top military advisor. Military advisers from France and Britain arrived in Geneva Monday to join the group, as did Inspector Patrick Leahy of the Irish police, who has worked with U.N. operations in Bosnia and Cambodia.

Israel originally welcomed the mission when the Security Council voted to send it earlier this month. But last week, Israeli officials expressed concern the team will focus on the destruction at Jenin and ignore Israel's contention that the camp was a haven for terrorists.

Nine Palestinians Killed In Israeli Hebron Raid

By VOA News

At least nine Palestinians have been killed and another 17 arrested in an Israeli raid on the West Bank city of Hebron. Israeli troops, backed by attack helicopters and tanks, seized control of more than half of the divided city's Palestinian-ruled area and remained there at nightfall Monday.

Palestinian witnesses said a missile fired from an Israeli combat helicopter hit a house, killing a gunman and four others. Witnesses say two others were killed by helicopter gunfire while rushing to the scene.

Israel said the military push was triggered by Saturday's Palestinian attack on a Jewish settlement that killed four Israelis.

Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said the raid is temporary and aimed at the terrorist infrastructure in the city, and not at the Palestinian Authority. He said troops have conducted house-to house-searches for militants, and have seized explosive materials, weapons and missiles.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Israel should "finish its withdrawal" from Palestinian areas and refrain from further incursions.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that "all elements are in place" for reaching an agreement to end the stand-off at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. But Palestinian negotiators said talks are on hold until Israel allows food into the church.

Some 200 Palestinians, including 30 armed gunmen, have been holed up in the church for 27 days. Monday, an Israeli sniper killed a militant who stepped outside the church.

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