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Arafat to Visit West Bank Destruction - 2002-05-02

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says his first visit after being granted freedom to travel again will be to inspect devastated areas of the West Bank. Mr. Arafat denounced the "barbarian activities" of the Israeli Army, as Israeli soldiers ended the siege around his headquarters. Mr. Arafat, speaking at his compound in the West Bank city, Ramallah, says he is horrified by the Israeli Army's offensive against Palestinian areas. In an interview with American television, he says his first priority will be to visit areas of the West Bank hard hit by the Israeli military campaign.

"I will go to see what has happened in all our cities and towns," he said. "The disasters, the crimes, the losses, all our infrastructures has been destroyed. All our infrastructures."

Mr. Arafat has remained a virtual prisoner in his offices since December, when Israeli tanks surrounded his compound, following a series of Palestinian terrorist attacks.

One month ago, soldiers entered the Ramallah complex, in the wake of Palestinian suicide bombings that sparked an Israeli military offensive against the West Bank. The Israeli soldiers continued to allow supplies of food and medicine to reach the besieged Palestinian leader. The Israeli Army ended its siege of Mr. Arafat's compound, Wednesday, as it withdrew from all of Ramallah.

The pullback was part of a American-brokered deal, under which six wanted Palestinians who had taken refuge inside Mr. Arafat's headquarters were transferred to a prison in the West Bank city, Jericho, under British and American supervision.

Mr. Arafat says he remains committed to the peace accords he first signed with Israel in 1993. However, he warns that those who supported the assassination of the Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 have taken power in Israel. Mr. Rabin was shot dead by a Jewish right-wing extremist, who opposed the Israeli Government's policy of trading land for peace with the Palestinians.