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'Killing Arafat is an Option,' says Israeli Deputy PM - 2003-09-14

Israel's deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, says that killing President Yasser Arafat is one option being considered to carry out the Israeli security cabinet's intention to remove the Palestinian leader.

Mr. Olmert says that Israel is trying to eliminate what he described as "one of the heads of terror".

Mr. Olmert was responding to questions about the decision of the Israeli security cabinet on Thursday to have Mr. Arafat removed.

He says other options being considered include expelling Mr. Arafat or ensuring he is further isolated in his partially-destroyed headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Mr. Olmert raised the possibility of using troops and electronic jamming to cut Mr. Arafat off from the outside world.

The Israeli deputy premier says that Mr. Arafat would then become "like a prisoner in a dungeon."

Mr. Olmert says that under this plan, Mr. Arafat would be allowed rations of food each day, but he would not be able to host visitors, hold news conferences, give interviews or speak on a telephone.

Since the security cabinet's call for the "removal" of Mr. Arafat, Palestinians have turned out by the thousands to demonstrate their support for him.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat likened Mr. Olmert's remarks to the "thinking and action of the mafia - not a government." Mr. Erekat said that if Mr. Arafat is expelled or killed, it will spell the destruction of the entire Palestinian Authority.

Mr. Erekat said that, without Mr. Arafat in control, local Palestinian militia groups would rule the streets, and he warned that these armed groups would want to kill moderate Palestinian leaders, probably including himself. He says "total anarchy" would reign in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.