Wednesday, March 19, 2003

As the U.S.’s 48-hr. deadline for Hussein to leave Iraq draws near, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, fearing Israel will step up attacks and impose stiff closures and curfews as soon as war on Iraq begins, close schools and businesses, hoard provisions, stay inside. Israel extends the closure on the territories (imposed 3/17 for Purim) until 3/30. The IDF demolishes a Palestinian home in Dayr al-Balah; conducts arrest raids in Jenin, al-Maghazi r.c., Qalqilya, Tulkarm. AMB gunmen ambush, fatally shoot a Jewish settler driving nr. Jenin. Israeli police arrest 3 Israeli Arabs fr. Acre on suspicion of joining Islamic Jihad, plotting attacks on Israelis. (AFP, JTA 3/19; HA, NYT, PCHR 3/20; PCHR 3/27; HA 4/3)

Abbas accepts Arafat’s nomination as PM, is given 3 wks. to form a government. (HA, MM 3/19; AYM, Interfax 3/19 in WNC 3/20; HA, NYT, WP 3/20; AYM 3/25, al-Quds 3/27 in WNC 3/28)

Just 90 mins. after the U.S. deadline passes for Hussein to leave Iraq, the U.S. makes a single strike on Baghdad, acting on intelligence of where Hussein, his top officials and sons could be found, assassinated. The strike marks the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but not the start of the “shock and awe” air campaign that the U.S. previously indicated would launch the war. Iraqi TV airs 2 videos of Hussein that suggest he was unharmed. (MM 3/19; HA, MM, NYT, WP, WT 3/20; MM 4/21)