Sharon: Arafat to Blame for Mideast Violence

ByABC News
December 4, 2001, 3:48 AM

Dec. 4 -- Declaring its own war on terrorism, Israeli forces lashed out at Palestinian targets in response to a series of deadly suicide attacks over the weekend.

In a rousing, televised address to the nation on Monday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon personally blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the weekend attacks, which killed 26 people and injured 200 others.

"Anyone who stands up to kill us is subject to death," he said.

Following the speech, Israeli ministers met in a full Cabinet meeting where they were expected to decide on the new measures to combat attacks. Sharon declined to provide further details. Reuters reported that the Cabinet declared Arafat's Palestinian Authority a "terror-supporting entity" and it declared the armed wing of Arafat's Fatah organization and his elite Force 17 security units to be "terrorist groups," making them possible targets.

Later in the evening, Israeli forces raided Palestinian-run Gaza Airport. Tanks, armored vehicles and bulldozers were reportedly used, tearing up the runway.

The attack was only the latest in a day in which Israel launched airstrikes on Palestinian targets in Gaza City, destroying some of Arafat's helicopters and his helipad. The attacks were followed by F-16 strikes on a Palestinian police headquarters in the West Bank town of Jenin.

Palestinian firemen in Gaza City continued to battle flames and smoke rising from buildings struck by Israeli missiles, including some structures in and around Arafat's headquarters.

Palestinian officials said Arafat was not in his Gaza headquarters but in the West Bank city of Ramallah during the attack.

Nabil Sha'ath, a Palestinian Cabinet member, said during a broadcast interview that Arafat's two helicopters were destroyed in the Gaza City attack. The helicopters, said Sha'ath, provide the only air transportation the Israelis approve for Arafat.

Sha'ath also said barracks of Arafat's personal guards were among the targets hit and there were a number of casualties.