The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon defended its siege of the Ramallah compound of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat from intense criticism at home and abroad, saying the goal of the operation was to arrest those involved in terrorist activities who had sought refuge there.
A Chanukah menorah still stood on the kitchen table in the Sderot home of Aliza Amar on Wednesday, one week after a Palestinian Kassam rocket struck her house and punctured her legs with shrapnel.
“The house was blown apart,” said Mark Schiff, 53, a Los Angeles comedian who was touring the war-ravaged city as part of the Crossroads Comedy Tour that raises money for teens at risk.
Saying that Israel has launched a war that pits “terrorism against democracy,” Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky called on American Jews this week to use their influence to convince the world to allow Israel to finish the job.
Although Israeli Arabs were blamed for two car bombs that exploded Sunday — less than 24 hours after Israeli and Palestinian leaders signed a revised land-for-security accord — a terrorist infrastructure in the territories “in all probability” made the attacks possible, according to Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Zalman Shoval.
Just four days after the Palestinian Authority pledged cooperation with Israeli security forces, its intelligence services arrested two men Tuesday who reportedly confessed to the murder of a yeshiva student in the West Bank city of Hebron just a day earlier.
Palestinian officials said they were expecting Israeli authorities to be just as vigilant in arresting the person who stoned to death an elderly Palestinian in an apparent revenge attack shortly after the murder of the student, Danny Vargas, who worked as a security guard in Hebron.
Sarah Bouhel, a 24-year-old Israeli soldier, froze when she saw a Palestinian at the Beersheva Central Bus Station Monday morning pull out a hand grenade and toss it about 12 feet from her.
“I was in shock,” she recalled. “I didn’t think he would throw it. The soldier I was standing with saw I couldn’t move, so he took my hand and pulled me, shouting at me to run. In the middle of the run, there was a big blast and we fell. I fell on my stomach because of the blast.”
The killing of three Palestinians and the wounding of four others by Israeli soldiers at a roadblock near Hebron Tuesday sparked the worst rioting in the West Bank in four months.
The violence came just one day after Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat warned of a possible new Arab uprising.
It was the third time since 1994 that the joyous Purim holiday had been marred by bloodshed in Israel.
The difference between Palestinian terrorists and Israeli soldiers was highlighted Wednesday when a suicide bomber targeted civilians aboard a crowded rush-hour bus just hours after 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in Jenin during a house-to-house search for terrorists to minimize civilian casualties.
Israelis were filled with anger, frustration and pessimism this week following two suicide bombings five hours apart Tuesday, one in the heart of Jerusalem and the other near Tel Aviv, that killed at least 15 and wounded dozens. And few were optimistic that the new Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, would do any more to stop the violence than his predecessor, who quit in despair last weekend.
“Clearly, there is a sense of futility among many,” said Uzi Arad, director of the Institute of Policy and Strategy and former director of intelligence for the Mossad.
Sputtering efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stalled this week after Palestinians wearing Israeli army uniforms killed eight Israelis —including two babies — in a daring, well-executed ambush of a bulletproof civilian bus just outside the West Bank community of Immanuel.
The attack, the first in 26 days of relative quiet, came as no surprise to Israelis.