Israeli troops set off bombs in the Voice of Palestine radio station on Saturday in retribution for the death of six Israelis. The international community vows to continue efforts to stop violence.
The Voice of Palestine - a symbol of sovereignty for the Palestinians
Early Saturday the Israeli army set off explosives in the five-story Voice of Palestine radio station in the heart of the West Bank city of Ramallah. Half of the building collapsed under the explosion, sending up flames, smoke and debris into the morning sky. A Palestinian official said the force of the blast shattered windows in several nearby houses.
The building housed administrative offices as well as studios for Palestinian television. Prior to the detonation, Israeli soldiers cleared the premises and evacuated the building. All personnel in the station at the time were able to flee safely.
By mid-day Saturday, Voice of Palestine director Bassem Abusumaya said the station had resumed broadcasting news, songs and talk shows on local private FM stations from a facility in the city.
Symbol of Sovereignty
Israeli government officials have accused the radio station, which is the mouthpiece of the Palestinian Authority and its official positions, of inciting the intifada or Palestinian uprising by broadcasting inflammatory material directed against Israelis.
Palestinian leaders deny the charge and accuse Israel of trying to silence its media.
Palestinian Preventive Security Chief in the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub, told Reuters news agency that the attack against Voice of Palestine shows that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "lacks any political horizon and war is his only option."
"The stupid Israeli government wants to destroy the symbol of Palestinian sovereignty. But Voice of Palestine radio is not only a building to be destroyed, it is inside the hearts of every Palestinian," Rajoub said.
The BBC reported that the Voice of Palestine broadcast a statement from Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat, in which he said the destruction of the radio station was part and parcel of Israeli efforts to undermine the Palestinian Authority and its institutions.
The Voice of Palestine radio station was a calculated target meant to get the attention of the Palestinian Authority. It was a warning to the people of Palestine, not to attack Israel.
In a statement issued after the explosion, the Israeli army announced it had carried out the operation "in the framework of Israeli reaction to the murderous attack" in the northern city of Hadera two days earlier.
Late Thursday night, Palestinian gunmen stormed a Jewish bat mitzva, or coming-of-age party, in the northern Israeli city of Hadera, killing six people, mainly Russian Jews.
In response to this, the Israeli military launched an air strike on Friday against a Palestinian security compound in the West Bank city of Tulkarm and tightened controls on Arafat’s offices in Ramallah. One Palestinian was killed in the air strike and another was shot dead by troops in a confrontation outside Arafat’s offices.
The attacks are the first major eruptions of violence since Arafat declared a cease fire a month ago under intense international pressure to end a wave of suicide bombings by militants.
Both the United States and Europe have condemned the outbreaks of violence and have urged the two sides to seriously reconsider the consequences of their actions and resume the forestalled peace talks.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was worried about the worsening Israeli-Palestinian relations. The only way out of the downward spiral of violence, he said, is to get both sides back to the negotiation table.
The German government expressed the urgency of the situation. Along with the international community, Germany vowed to undertake all necessary efforts to bring both parties together and put and end to the circle of violence and terror.