RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- Explosions rocked Yasser Arafat's compound Saturday, including one that showered him with debris, as the Israeli army systematically blew up or bulldozed nearly every building around him in the Palestinian Authority's headquarters.
Arafat, a few aides and about 20 men wanted by Israel were pinned to a few rooms in a wing of the main office building -- the only main structure left standing in the once sprawling complex.
The White House and the European Union on Friday urged Israel not to go too far in its reprisal for a Tel Aviv bus bombing that killed six people.
Israel's defense minister said he wanted to isolate Arafat, but not harm or expel him. He said troops would stay until the surrender of the wanted men, including the West Bank intelligence chief.
However, Israel TV's Channel Two, citing defense officials, said the ultimate objective of the assault was to confine Arafat to a tiny area in difficult conditions and prompt him to seek exile. Arafat has said he would never again leave the Palestinian lands.
"I reiterate my call to our people and all our factions to halt any violent attacks inside Israel because (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon exploits these operations as a cover to implement his plans to destroy the peace of the brave," Arafat said in a statement published on the Web site of the Palestinian news agency, Wafa.
Arafat's advisers said they feared the office building might collapse and that he was in the line of fire of snipers. "President Arafat and those with him are in danger," a key aide, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said early Saturday, appealing for immediate international intervention.
A photographer holed up alongside Arafat said a tank shell slammed into the floor above them early Saturday, showering Arafat with dust and debris but not wounding him.
The raid -- the third on the compound since March -- was launched late Thursday in retaliation for a suicide bombing on a Tel Aviv bus that killed five Israelis and a 19-year-old Jewish seminary student from Scotland.
By early Saturday, Arafat found himself caught in the tightest Israeli chokehold yet. All the main buildings in his headquarters -- except for a wing of his office building -- had been demolished. Bulldozers were also tearing out sections of a sleeping quarters for security officers and the back part of Arafat's office building.
The military said troops razed 10 buildings and mobile homes.
Flames and thick black smoke rose from the roof of another building housing policemen's sleeping quarters.
Bulldozers were digging a deep trench and troops ran coils of barbed wire around the main building. Arafat was confined to his quarters on the second floor, after troops destroyed the stairway to the ground floor with a tank shell, his aides said.
Soldiers also demolished a second-floor walkway between the two wings of the building, cutting Arafat off from most of his guards in the other section. Bulldozers barreling into the walkway left holes in walls and tore into pipes that gushed water. A construction shovel raked a wall of the office, sending up dust.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.