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Arafat Surveys Latest Damage, Denounces Assault as ‘Racism’

By Daniel Williams
THE WASHINGTON POST -- ramallah, west bank

Yasser Arafat, fresh from a morning nap, surveyed the wreckage of the presidential apartment in his ruined West Bank headquarters with a well-practiced look of concern.

An Israeli shell had made a bathroom window where none existed before, blowing gray tiles off the walls. In the bedroom, fine dust covered the Baby Wipes dispenser on his bedstead, a green velveteen prayer rug draped over an exercise bicycle, Oriental carpets on the floor and packages of antihistamines scattered everywhere. The blast shattered the mirror atop a faux Victorian dresser, but a photo of him holding his toddler daughter was intact.

“Everybody knows this is my bedroom,” he said with sarcasm. “I was supposed to sleep here last night, but I had some work downstairs.”

Arafat emerged from an underground bunker Thursday morning after a fierce bombardment of his headquarters that lasted six hours, mounted in retaliation for Wednesday’s car-bombing of an Israeli bus that killed 17 people. He took some time to show the damage to reporters and television cameramen, denouncing the Israeli assault as racism and fascism.

Wednesday night and Thursday, Israelis began to bury the remains of 13 soldiers and four civilians, victims of the bombing. Newspapers published pictures of all the dead, most of them in their late teens and twenties. Politicians urgently pressed for a range of actions: accelerated construction of a fence enveloping the West Bank, Arafat’s expulsion, formal reoccupation of Palestinian territories.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon limited Israel’s immediate responses to raids into the West Bank towns of Hebron, Qalqilya, Tulkarm and Jenin -- and the pounding of Arafat’s headquarters compound here in Ramallah. During the intense artillery and missile attack on his offices, one intelligence officer and a bodyguard were killed, Palestinian officials reported. Israeli officials dismissed suggestions that they were trying to kill Arafat. That would have been easy, suggested an army spokesman, Capt. Jacob Dallal.