JERUSALEM — Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat visited Jenin a week after Israel completed its withdrawal from the West Bank town.
Thousands of cheering Palestinians welcomed Arafat on Sunday as his helicopter, which flew him in from the Gaza Strip, landed on top of the building that served as the Israeli army headquarters prior to the withdrawal.
In an address to the crowd, Arafat spoke of the dawn of Palestinian independence and urged a cheering crowd to participate in the Palestinian elections scheduled for Jan. 20.
His trip to Jenin was his third visit to the West Bank since Palestinian autonomy was launched in Gaza and the Jericho enclave in May 1994.
After addressing the crowd, in what some viewed as an attempt to advance his own candidacy in the elections, Arafat convened a meeting of the Palestinian Authority leadership.
Jenin was the first of seven West Bank towns to fall under Palestinian self-rule under the terms of a recently signed agreement for expanding autonomy in the region.
According to the accord's timetable, Israeli troops will withdraw from six of the towns by the end of the year. A partial redeployment in the seventh, Hebron, is expected to be completed by March.