World

FROM BAD TO WORSE

The distrust and the dying continue despite U.S.led calls for a ceasefire

Tom Fennell June 4 2001
World

FROM BAD TO WORSE

The distrust and the dying continue despite U.S.led calls for a ceasefire

Tom Fennell June 4 2001

FROM BAD TO WORSE

The distrust and the dying continue despite U.S.led calls for a ceasefire

World

President George W. Bush has learned what his predecessor, Bill Clinton, knew only too well: brokering a peace deal in the Middle East is all but impossible. Bush formally linked his administration to the stalled IsraeliArab peace process last week, phoning Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He asked both men to end the fighting that has killed nearly 500 people since last September and return to the bargaining table. But the violence continued. In back-to-back suicide attacks at

weeks end, a tmck carrying a bomb blew up near a heavily fortified Israeli army post in the Gaza Strip and a car bomb exploded near a bus terminal in central Israel. At least three people—the assailants—were killed and 45 Israelis injured. Two Islamic militant groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility. Another bomb went off in a West Bank refugee camp, killing a Palestinian gunman and wounding four others. The Palestinian Authority blamed Israel, but Israel denied any involvement.

The explosions capped a difficult week

for Israel. On May 24, a banquet hall collapsed during a wedding in Jerusalem, killing about two dozen people and injuring hundreds. Jittery Israeli gunners also shot down a small Lebanese civilian plane that had entered Israeli airspace, killing the pilot. The shooting occurred with Israel’s military on high alert for a possible terrorist attack—but the suicide bombers still managed to deliver their deadly cargoes. Israel responded by sending tanks and armoured vehicles into Palestiniancontrolled areas of the Gaza Strip.

Bush’s push to end Israeli-Palestinian fighting began with the release of a truce plan proposed by an international commission headed by former U.S. senator George Mitchell. Mitchell called on both sides to halt the violence and urged Israel to freeze construction of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But Mitchells report seemed to do little more than spark a new round of angry verbal exchanges— followed by more deaths.

Tom Fennell