Day of violence greets U.S. envoys' arrival in Mideast

Posted: November 27, 2001

Another wave of violence swept through Israel and the West Bank on Tuesday, leaving at least six people dead and dozens badly injured.

Two Palestinian gunmen opened fire in a busy marketplace in northern Israel on Tuesday morning. They killed two Israelis and wounded more than 30 others before being shot dead by police.

Later, an Israeli woman was killed when gunmen fired on a bus in the Gaza Strip. On the West Bank, another Israeli woman was wounded in a drive-by shooting.


And the violence came as American envoys arrived in the region to begin a new round of diplomacy aimed at brokering a ceasefire.

In the first incident, two 19-year-old Palestinians went on a rampage, firing at anything and everything that moved. It ended only when Israeli police shot the two men dead. But not before they killed two Israelis and wounded 34 others.

The attack came just hours after Israeli tanks and troops pulled out of nearby Jenin, a West Bank town under Palestinian control which the Israelis occupied for more than a month.

Israel say Jenin is a hotbed of terrorism. Both gunmen involved in Tuesday's attack were from Jenin. Islamic Jihad and the armed wing of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement claimed responsibility.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Gideon Meir says the pullout was timed to coincide with the latest American peace initiative. "We have pulled out of Jenin as a gesture of goodwill, to create the right atmosphere for this visit. And this is the answer of the Palestinians."

The U.S. envoys, Anthony Zinni and William Burns, were being given a helicopter tour of the region by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when they got word of the attack.


Later, Zinni was cautious in discussing the violence. "I think this points out the importance of having a ceasefire and as the prime minister said, 'The ceasefire is what we need so that we can get onto something more comprehensive and more lasting.'"

Sharon says he wants a ceasefire, but he's sticking to the position there must be a week of quiet before any talks with the Palestinians can begin.

Two more attacks cast an even darker shadow over the prospects for peace. An Israeli woman was shot and killed in the Gaza Strip. Her attacker was shot dead by Israeli soldiers. Another Israeli woman was wounded in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank.

The head of the Israeli army, Shaul Mofaz, accused Arafat of personally ordering the attack in Afula, a charge the Palestinian Authority hotly denies.

But it's clear that Arafat has been embarrassed by the latest wave of what Israelis call Palestinian terrorism.

The speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Abu Allah, says Israel has provoked the violence. "All the world are speaking about the way that the Israeli occupation deals against the Palestinians; the killing, the assassination without excuse. Children, students, the closure, the separation between West Bank and Gaza. All these practices and policies which are resented."

With the latest killings, the 14-month long Palestinian uprising has now cost 997 lives. The flames of hatred render rational discussion, let alone negotiations, virtually impossible.

Zinni's job is to find a way out of the quagmire.