Envoy Says Riots Must Stop Arafat Told No Peace Talks Until Violence Ends; Rally Postponed
In an apparent reprimand to Yasser Arafat, a U.S. envoy trying to salvage Middle East peacemaking insisted Friday that violence must cease before Israel and the Palestinians can resume negotiations.
Palestinians rioted in the West Bank for a ninth day while envoy Dennis Ross was wrapping up his two-day peace mission. Hundreds of Palestinians threw stones and fire-bombs at Israeli troops in Hebron, who fired back tear gas and rubber bullets. In Ramallah, rioters burned cars and blocked streets with garbage bins.
In a sign he was trying to restore calm, Arafat postponed a joint rally of his Fatah movement and Islamic militants, which was to have been held Friday as a demonstration of Palestinian unity.
Palestinian police made their first serious efforts, although not always successful, to disperse the riots. In Ramallah, troops with plastic riot shields formed cordons to keep back protesters.
The West Bank security chief rejected any implied criticism from Ross.
“We have been trying to calm the streets, and we have succeeded in Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah,” Jebril Rajoub declared.
Israel has accused Arafat of orchestrating the rioting and of giving the go-ahead for terror attacks, including a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv last week that killed three Israeli women. Palestinians say Israel bears full blame for provoking violence by breaking ground on a new Jewish neighborhood in Arab east Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as a future capital.
Ross started his peace mission Thursday with talks with Arafat in Morocco, where Islamic leaders convened to discuss east Jerusalem.
On Friday, Ross met separately with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat.
Ross said he would now report back to President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, adding that he believed both sides were still interested in pressing on with the peace talks.
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