RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — A defiant Yasser Arafat said Thursday the Palestinian uprising will continue despite Israel's warning — delivered with rocket attacks on the bases of Palestinian security forces — that he must rein in militants who killed three Israeli children this week.
In Washington, President Bush struck a neutral stance and urged Israel to restrain its use of military might in responding to terrorism and called on Arafat to speak out forcibly and clearly to condemn violence.
"The government of Israel should exercise restraint in its military response," Bush said at a news conference. And, he said, Israel should relax its curbs on Palestinian civilians, making it possible for those in Gaza and on the West Bank to get to their jobs in Israel.
At the same time, he said the Palestinian Authority should resume talks on security with Israel. And he directed Secretary of State Colin Powell to call Arafat Thursday with the U.S. message that terrorism must end.
In fresh clashes Thursday, three Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire. A policeman died in a gun battle near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in Gaza, while two boys, ages 13 and 17, were shot dead in a stone-throwing clash near the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel. Eight teenagers were wounded in the fighting.
In Hebron, Israeli tanks shelled a Palestinian neighborhood after gunmen positioned there fired at Jewish enclaves in the divided West Bank town. Thick black smoke rose from two homes after shells hit.
In Wednesday night's rocket attack, windows were shattered in Arafat's two-story villa in Gaza City. The main aim was the headquarters of Force 17, a Palestinian security service, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Ramallah. One Force 17 member was killed, and dozens of Palestinians were injured in the bombardment.
Since late September, 446 people have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian fighting, including 365 Palestinians, 62 Israeli Jews and 19 others.
The bombardment was the first military strike ordered by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Indicating a long campaign, Sharon said, "Restoring security to the lives of Israeli citizens cannot be done overnight or in one day." Sharon was speaking Thursday in Tel Aviv.
The United States implicitly criticized Israel, saying there was no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That reaction came hours after the United States, standing by Israel, used its first U.N. veto since 1997 to kill a Security Council resolution backing a U.N. observer force to help protect Palestinians.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said the rocket attacks were intended as a "very serious warning, mainly to Force 17," which Israel has accused of involvement in attacks on Israeli civilians. The security service is on Arafat's payroll, "and he has to bring them in line," Peres told Israel army radio.
Arafat responded that the Palestinian people would not be cowed by the rocket attacks or other Israeli measures, such as blockades of Palestinian towns.
"Our people will continue the Al Aqsa uprising until we raise the Palestinian flag in every mosque and church and on the walls of Jerusalem," Arafat said after his motorcade stopped briefly near the scorched mobile homes that are part of the Force 17 headquarters. Arafat was on his way back from the two-day Arab League summit in Amman, Jordan.
Peres, meanwhile, acknowledged that the United States had not been warned of the rocket attack, despite Sharon's promises to President Bush that the Israeli leader would not surprise him.
"What happened was not in the nature of a surprise," Peres said. "We've had two terrible days, the entire country," he added, referring to a shooting attack and two suicide bombings that killed a 10-month-old Israeli girl and two teen-agers and left scores wounded.
Islamic militants claimed responsibility for the suicide attacks, while Israel has blamed the Tanzim militia linked to Arafat's Fatah movement for the death of the baby. Israeli security officials have said Force 17 was involved in earlier shooting attacks on Israeli civilians.
Some Israeli observers said the bombings were ineffective.
"The real aim was to calm those in Israel who demand revenge, so that they will not take the law into their own hands," said Ron Ben-Ishai, military commentator of the Yediot Ahronot daily.
In Hebron, where the baby was killed, Jewish settlers have torched Arab-owned stores and cars and have repeatedly tried to enter Palestinian-controlled neighborhoods. Settlers, angry at being restrained, have scuffled with Israeli soldiers, cursed them and thrown eggs at them.
Palestinian officials said Israel was trying to impose its political will on the Palestinians with the attacks. Sharon has proposed negotiating a long-term interim deal, an offer the Palestinians have turned down.
"We will not wave a white flag. We will not stop our uprising," said Hussein al-Sheikh, a leader of Arafat's Fatah movement in the West Bank.