Sharon Takes Charge – Will Show Bush Proofs of Arafat’s Complicity in Terror

In a scathing attack on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, President George W. Bushsaid Saturday night, March 30, that he understood Israel’s actions were necessary for its self-defense: “Their country is under attack – every day there is loss of innocent life.” He added: “in order for Israel to exist, terror must stop.” He said the United States was fighting terror – not only in Afghanistan, but in the Middle East too, he urged Arab leaders to make a concerted and focused effort to stop terror and secure Israel. At the same time, he warned Israeli leaders to make sure not to miss the path to peace.
Most importantly, Bush for the first time drew a connecting line between America’s war on global terror and Israel’s fight against Palestinian terrorists.
Bush disclosed that secretary of state Colin Powell had been unable to reach prime minister Ariel Sharon by telephone that evening because Sharon was not taking calls after the Tel Aviv cafe suicide bombing. In this latest terror outrage, 30 Israelis were injured, 10 seriously, most of them youngsters out on the town on Saturday night.
debkafile‘s sources report that the prime minister had a second reason for not taking overseas calls: He had just issued ultimatums to the Palestinian West Bank security chief, Jibril Rajoub, in Bitunya, and to Yasser Arafat in his besieged office in Ramallah.
Rajoub was told to hand over Tanzim chief Marwan Barghouti to the soldiers encircling his command post. Arafat was called on to surrender top master terrorists responsible for dozens of serious attacks, who were enjoying sanctuary in his quarters. Among them were organizers of Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi’s assassination last year.
Arafat’s response, according to debkafile‘s military sources, was adamant: If Israeli troops attempted to take the men under his protection and remove any more documents from his office, he would fight to the death.
This brought the Israel-Palestinian standoff to a critical point.
Sharon could make good on his ultimatum, send the troops in to seize the terrorist chiefs at whatever cost. Or else, both sides could take a step back from the brink, letting the wanted men trickle out from the confinement of the two-room apartment, one by one.
Neither Sharon nor Bush are keen on an upheaval that would set the Arab world by the ears.
In this tense situation, Sharon decided not to lay himself open to international pressure and ordered his aides to stop putting through calls.
Arafat, for his part, made the international lines hum, pleading with world leaders to save him from great danger, without explaining that he was using his personal immunity to shelter top terrorists and send suicide bombers on the rampage in Israeli cities.
According to debkafile‘s military sources, the Israeli prime minister is running the Ramallah operation in person because of the high stakes involved.
In the 48 hours of the Ramallah operation, military intelligence and Shin Beit operatives, who went in with Israeli forces, collected documentary proofs from Arafat’s presidential suite linking the Palestinian leader in person and his most trusted lieutenants – some with high diplomatic standing in the international community – to some of the most horrifying terror outrages in Israeli cities, including Jerusalem.
debkafile can report exclusively that Israel has passed these findings to President Bush, together with the first results of the interrogation of Sahar Habash, one of Arafat’s closest aides, who is the biggest fish rounded up by Israeli troops since the onset of the Ramallah operation early Friday, March 29.
Habash, an apparently gray figure, is charged with his leader’s most vital confidential tasks. His name will be familiar to readers of debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly.
In January 2001, we first exposed his function as chief coordinator of Arafat’s connections and communications with the Lebanese Hizballah and the al Qaeda militants hiding in – and passing through – the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. On February 17 this year, we reported that Sahar Habash was involved in setting up the visit to the Gaza Strip of the al Qaeda shoe-bomber, Richard Reid in July 2001, six months before he attempted to blow up a Paris-Miami American Airliners flight. Habash was instrumental in obtaining explosives for Reid’s operation, passing them to him through the Gazan Hamas activist, Nabil Aqal.
Sharon is anxious to lay hands not only on Zeevi’s killers, but also on the men and documents that will demonstrate to the US president beyond doubt the degree of Arafat’s complicity and that of his close followers in crimes of terror – not only in Israel; also their interaction with international terrorists.
After receiving the first documentary proofs – as well as a report of the latest Palestinian outrage in a Tel Aviv cafe – Bush finally made the connection for the first time between America’s global war on terror and Israel’s counter-terrorist offensive.

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