Jerusalem, Sept. 12 (Reuters): Israel faced an international outcry today over its decision to “remove” Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, a threat that drew tens of thousands of supporters into the streets to rally to his defence.
“The decision yesterday turned Arafat into a hero... and that’s a shame,” commentator Roni Shaked wrote in Israel’s largest newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. Calling Arafat an obstacle to peace but under US pressure not to exile him after two suicide bombings killed 15 Israelis on Tuesday, Israel’s security cabinet vowed yesterday “to remove” him “in a manner that will be determined separately”.
The wording left open options that could include killing Arafat — a proposal which Israeli newspapers said defence minister Shaul Mofaz raised but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon shot down — or expelling him from the Palestinian territories.
After the Israeli decision, thousands of Palestinians flocked to Arafat’s headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah and pledged to defend him with their lives.
Crowds numbering in the thousands also rallied in other cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in Arafat’s support.