Monday, December 3, 2001

Upon his return fr. the U.S. Sharon meets with his security cabinet, then his full cabinet to discuss how to respond to the 12/1+n2 attacks. The full cabinet votes to declare the PA "an entity that supports terrorism," adds Force 17 (Arafat's "presidential guard") to its list of terrorist groups, authorizes Sharon to escalate military action. FM Shimon Peres, other Labor MKs walk out of the cabinet mtg. in protest but do not formally withdraw fr. the governing coalition. (AP, CNN, HA, MM 12/3; MM, NYT, WP, WT 12/4; MM, WJW 12/6; MEI 12/7; MA 12/7 in WNC 12/12; WP 12/9)

While the cabinet meets, the PSF continues to arrest mbrs. of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, risking confrontations with hostile Palestinian crowds. Arafat also orders the arrest of Hamas spiritual leader Shaykh Ahmad Yasin, but when PSF officers arrive around midnight, crowds of Palestinians force them to retreat. The PSF says it has arrested more than 100 Palestinians since 12/2. Arafat asks Peres for a 4-day grace period, during which he vows he would crack down on opposition groups. Israel refuses, dismissing the arrests as a "show for international consumption." The U.S. says the PA must "root out the infrastructure of the groups that support terrorists." (HA 12/3; NYT, WP, WT 12/4; AKH 12/4 in WNC 12/5; MEI 12/7; MA 12/7 in WNC 12/11; WT 12/10)

Soon after the cabinet mtg., the IDF launches air raids against Arafat's headquarters and other PA sites around Gaza City, destroying the PSF barracks, Arafat's 2 personal helicopters, injuring 12 Palestinians; sends tanks into Gaza airport to bulldoze runways; sends troops into Ramallah to surround the PA's West Bank headquarters, where Arafat is staying. In Jinin, U.S.-supplied F-16s destroy the Palestinian governate building, jail, PSF headquarters. The IDF also fatally shoots 1 Palestinian nr. Jinin; raids Beitunia, attacking several homes and arresting an Arafat adviser, several Islamic Jihad mbrs. In Bethlehem, Fatah mbrs. Rafat al-Bajali and Nidal al-Dirbani, both on Israel's wanted list, are killed in a mysterious explosion thought to be an IDF assassination. The White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says Israel "obviously has the right to defend itself. The president understands that very clearly." (AFP, AP, CNN, HA 12/3; XIN 12/3 in WNC 12/4; MENA 12/3, AN, MA 12/4 in WNC 12/5; HA, HP, NYT, WP, WT 12/4; HP, LAW 12/5; AYM 12/5 in WNC 12/7; AYM 12/6, al-Safir 12/7 in WNC 12/11; MEI 12/7; WJW 12/14; MEI 12/21)