JERUSALEM (AP) U.S. envoys urged Yasser Arafat to take harsh measures against Islamic militants in meetings and a phone call hours before a suicide bomber detonated explosives yesterday outside a Jerusalem hotel, further rattling terror-weary Israelis” nerves.
In Arafat”s boldest move yet against militants, Palestinian police put Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin under house arrest late yesterday. Hamas has claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks, including deadly weekend suicide bombings in Israel.
Palestinian security officials said Yassin, a quadriplegic, was told he would be allowed no visitors except for relatives, and his telephone lines would be cut.
More than 600 Hamas supporters, some of them carrying weapons, gathered in the street near Yassin”s home yesterday night, demanding his release. Some threw stones at Palestinian police outside the building. Others fired automatic weapons in the air.
The Palestinian leader, meanwhile, appealed to President Bush, in a letter hand-delivered yesterday, for more time to prove he really is trying to stop terrorist violence against Israelis.
Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, who met with Bush yesterday, told reporters he gave the president “fresh messages” from the Middle East: Arafat”s letter plus word from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Israel had ended its retaliatory strikes on Palestinian targets.
In a telephone conversation earlier yesterday, “Sharon said he had no intention of attacking Palestinian targets more, and for the last 26 hours, there has been no attack,” Bondevik told journalists on the White House driveway.
As for Arafat”s message to Bush, “The main message was, “Give me a chance,”” said Bondevik.
Yesterday night, the Senate approved a resolution expressing U.S. solidarity with Israel and ratified two United Nations treaties that would commit countries to fighting terrorism.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said he urged the Palestinian leader to arrest 36 suspected terrorist leaders, while other Israeli officials dismissed Arafat”s arrests of 151 people in recent days as a show.
Arafat countered that he was determined to break the terror networks in the Palestinian territories, but Israeli military strikes and sieges were making the job impossible.