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Israeli Troops Conducting Drills Aimed at Forced Exile of Arafat

October 04, 2002|From Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israeli troops are practicing bundling Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat into a helicopter and whisking him into exile, a drill that underscores Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's determination to get rid of his longtime nemesis.

Thus far, Sharon has been restrained by opposition from his security advisors and political pressure from the United States.

Israeli security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said troops who would carry out an order to expel Arafat have been placed on standby three times in recent months, including after a Passover suicide attack that killed 29 people in March and triggered a major Israeli offensive against Palestinian militants.

The daily Maariv said that as part of the preparations, commandos scouted locations where Arafat could be sent. It did not name the country, but Israeli television has reported that Libya was chosen for his exile.

Sharon spokesman Raanan Gissin declined to comment on the report.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and security officials, including the heads of the Mossad and Shin Bet spy agencies, have argued against Arafat's expulsion, saying he is confined and isolated and would cause greater problems for Israel if he were abroad, jetting among capitals to promote the Palestinian quest for statehood.

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