Canada and the World

DECLARATION OF WAR

Israel responds with tanks and rockets to a rash of suicide bombings

Tom Fennell December 17 2001
Canada and the World

DECLARATION OF WAR

Israel responds with tanks and rockets to a rash of suicide bombings

Tom Fennell December 17 2001

DECLARATION OF WAR

Israel responds with tanks and rockets to a rash of suicide bombings

The body count mounts, loved ones mourn, and Israeli soldiers and Palestinian suicide bombers prepare their weapons for the next bloody clash. Terrorists with Hamas—the Islamic Resistance Movement—-scored what was, to them, one of their greatest triumphs on Dec. 1, when two Arab men blew themselves up on a crowded pedestrian mall in Jerusalem, killing 10 people between the ages of 14 and 20 and injuring 200. The following day, another Arab man detonated a bomb on a bus in Haifa, killing 16 people in a hail of shrapnel and leaving 40 injured. It was one of the bloodiest 24-hour periods in Israel’s history, forcing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to cut short his visit to Washington, where he was meeting with George W. Bush. On his return, he declared “war on terrorism”—and on Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. “Arafat is responsible,” Sharon

said. “He chose a strategy of murder.” Israeli troops and tanks then entered dozens of Palestinian-controlled towns and villages across the Gaza Strip and West Bank. In a direct warning to Arafat, rockets fired from Israeli fighter jets destroyed two of his helicopters and a landing pad in Gaza. Arafat, who was working in Ramallah, accused Israel of escalating the conflict and called for a meeting of the Arab states. But in the face of growing international condemnation—and calls from both Sharon and Bush for action against Hamas—his police placed the militant organizations founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, under house arrest. When Arafat complained that further action on his part was impossible until Israel stopped its attacks, Sharon agreed to a ceasefire, giving him 12 hours to arrest 36 terrorists whose names had been supplied to Arafat by Israeli authorities. When Arafat failed to respond,

Israeli missiles again pounded targets across the Gaza Strip.

Arafat claimed that the Israeli offensive amounted to an attempt to “oust” him from office. But he also faces an enemy from within. Polls show his inability— some critics would say refusal—to reach a peace deal with the Israelis has eroded his support among moderate Palestinians to less than 25 per cent. More radical elements want him removed altogether; last week, hundreds of Hamas supporters fought with Palestinian police outside Yassins home, demanding the sheik’s release. With Arafat running out of manoeuvring room, Bush only added to the pressure, telling journalists in Washington that Arafat must bring “justice to those who would use murder as a weapon.” It may be an impossible task, in a land where suicide bombers could already be planning their next bloody attack. Tom Fennell