February 20, 2002 – Korea, Gaza And Haj
February 20, 2002 – a view of the world this day 15 years ago. Further evidence, not much has changed.
The Middle East was headlining the news this day, with reports of Israeli aircraft, warships and tanks hitting Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including Yassar Arafat‘s headquarters. Officials said at least eleven Palestinians were killed in overnight Israeli military strikes in the area. The raids followed an ambush of an Israeli Army checkpoint earlier in the week in which six Israeli soldiers were killed. More than 30 people on both sides have been killed in attacks and reprisals since Monday of the previous week. Israeli warplanes struck Yassar Arafat’s compound in Gaza City, killing members of his personal guard and Palestinians said an Israeli missile hit a Palestinian police post near Arafat’s offices in Ramallah.
And elsewhere – more than 100 people were killed in Egypt when a passenger train caught fire near the town of El-Ayyat. The train was traveling from Cairo to Luxor when the fire broke out. The cause of the fire was still unknown at press time.
President Bush, in reference to the latest war of words over North Korea, said that “no country should be a prison for its own people”. Bush went on to describe North Korea as a “despotic regime”, during a visit to the de-militarized zone which divides the Korean peninsula. Earlier, he had emphasized that he had no intention of attacking North Korea, despite his description the previous month of Pyongyang as part of an “axis of evil”. During talks with the South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, Mr. Bush affirmed American support for Mr. Kim’s policy of engagement with the north. But in Seoul, violent clashes had broken out between hundreds of anti-U.S. demonstrators and riot police. Many in South Korea felt the strong language could pose as a barrier to improved relations with the North.
And 2 million Muslims descended on the holy city of Mecca this day, in observance of the annual pilgrimage, or Haj. The five day ritual, which began, is the largest yearly mass movement of people on the planet. The Haj this year was the first since the attacks the previous September 11th in New York and Washington, and the ensuing war in Afghanistan.
And that’s a slice of what went on this day, as presented by the BBC World Service, World Briefing program for February 20, 2002.