Briefing by IDF Spokesman Brig-Gen. Ron Kitrey

National Media Center, Jerusalem, April 1, 2002

Brig. Gen. Ron Kitrey: We have encircled Arafat’s "Moukata" compound and we are carrying out searches in houses, looking for intelligence information, weapons and wanted terrorists. The intelligence information should make our searches easier. In Ramallah, we have suffered two casualties and 18 wounded, one seriously.

In Ramallah, we have arrested more than 700 suspects, a relatively large number of them on the wanted list. They are presently under investigation. We are searching private buildings because terrorists hide there. There is a story circulating of twenty armed men who were in the apartment of an old man without his permission. There are other terrorists hiding under the protection of Arafat in the "Moukata" inside the foreign service building.

The media published a story about the massacre of 30 Palestinian security officers. We investigated the matter. It turns out that in the course of a firefight with Israeli forces, four Palestinians were killed, four were wounded and 30 were apprehended. All of the Palestinians were armed.

The information that continues to flow out of the Palestinian propaganda machine is unfounded. Here is a picture of the bloodied body of Arafat lying on the floor of the office. The caption reads "killed by Israelis". You will be happy to know that Arafat is in excellent health, as shown on the footage taken by the journalists who came to kiss and hug him. In the meanwhile, a suicide bomber was being sent to Haifa.

After the IDF entered a hospital, they were instructed not to go into hospitals again. There are still wanted terrorists hiding in hospitals, albeit some are wounded.

Around 20,000 IDF reservists have been called up for duty and the response to the call up is touching. There are those who asked to raise their medical profile so that they could volunteer and we had to tell many to go home until such time that they could be called. Reservists came from overseas because they heard of the situation.

In reference to Qalqilya: for the past 24 hours, the IDF has been conducting operations in that town. The operation has been relatively quiet, with the exception of an occasional burst of fire.

Eight soldiers have been wounded, one seriously, when an explosive device was activated near an IDF force.

Accurate as of an hour ago, 20 wanted terrorists have been found, as well as some weapons and ammunition. Searches will continue until we are satisfied that we have found those dangerous terrorists.

Tulkarem has been closed hermetically. In the last 20 minutes, another IDF initiative has commenced involving searches for wanted terrorists and weapons.

I would like to thank the reservists and those citizens who gave them refreshments and came to see them off.

The Chief of Staff has written a letter from which I would like to quote: "The IDF has undertaken Operation Defensive Shield in order to uproot terrorism. This is not a war against the Palestinian people. We shall wage this war with determination and wisdom, while upholding the values of the IDF and its moral code – while adamantly respecting human dignity."

In the coming days, information disseminated from Moukata will include documentation of Shoubaki’s connection to the Karine A, as well as his connection to the Al Aksa Brigades and Palestinian terrorism.

On the northern border, the Hizbullah is trying to heat up the area by shooting mortars and rockets at Mt. Dov and even tried to cross over the western sector of the Lebanese border. We hope that we have succeeded in hitting key targets. Hizbullah’s action, supported by the Syrians and Lebanon, is contrary to UN Resolution 254.

Every wanted terrorist we arrested is one less suicide bomber, and that is how we see our operation’s mission. It is a simple equation. Right now this is the way to defend our country.