Arafat rejects Israeli demands, warns of violence

HEBRON, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat accused Israel of trying to evade its promise to cede more West Bank land and warned Thursday that violence could erupt in “the whole region.”
With both sides entrenched in widely divergent positions, prospects for a breakthrough in talks next week with President Clinton seemed dim.
Reflecting the tensions, several dozen Israeli and Palestinian troops trained assault rifles on one another in a 20-minute standoff in the Gaza Strip, and Israeli troops shot at a Palestinian taxi, wounding a passenger in the leg.
Clinton is scheduled to meet separately in Washington with Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks seen as critical to the future of the peace process. Renewed violence is feared if they fail.
Israeli security officials believe the Palestinians have hoarded weapons and conducted assault training in preparation for a possible violent conflict, the Maariv daily said Thursday. The Israeli army has carried out its own exercises under the code name “Indian Summer,” it said.
On Thursday, the Palestinians accused Netanyahu, reluctant heir to the peace accords, of seeking a pretext to evade ceding land.
The Palestinians insist Israel must carry out the three troop pullbacks Netanyahu promised in a U.S.-brokered agreement signed a year ago.
The sides disagree considerably on how much land those pullouts should cover.
The Palestinians, who now control about 27 percent of the West Bank — areas including most of its Arab population — say Israel can keep no more than 9 percent after the three pullouts.