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Arafat Appeals to World Leaders - 2001-08-11


Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has launched an international campaign to pressure Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinians' main headquarters in East Jerusalem. Israel seized Orient House in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed 16 people and wounded nearly 100 others.

Mr. Arafat has written to world leaders, including the presidents of the United States, Russia, and China, asking them for help in pressuring Israel to end its occupation of Orient House.

Mr. Arafat is urging the leaders to "intervene rapidly" to restore Palestinian access to Orient House and other Palestinian institutions closed by the Israelis in and around Jerusalem.

On Saturday, the Palestinian leader met with foreign envoys in the West Bank town of Ramallah, asking for international intervention in the conflict with Israel.

Palestinians say the seizure of Orient House violated previous Israeli assurances that Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem would not be harmed.

The meeting occurred as Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli police in East Jerusalem. The demonstrators marched toward Orient House but were pushed back by police who blocked access to the building with barricades.

A number of Palestinian officials, including legislator Hanan Ashrawi, were denied access to Orient House.

In a highly symbolic move, Israeli police took over the building, which is the Jerusalem headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in retaliation for a suicide bombing in a crowded Jerusalem restaurant. Orient House represents Palestinian hopes for an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move not recognized by most nations.

Israeli security forces also seized buildings in Abu Dis, a Palestinian village on the edge of Jerusalem, that has been proposed as a possible seat of government for a future Palestinian state. Israeli warplanes also destroyed a Palestinian police station in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, hospital officials in the Gaza Strip say two Palestinians died Saturday after being shot a day earlier in clashes with Israeli soldiers.

More than 700 people, mostly Palestinians, have died since the bloodshed began last September.

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