The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is escalating to a new crisis level, with unforeseen dangers, including full-scale war, which could engulf not only Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, but the entire region as well.

On Sept. 5, an F-16 Israeli fighter jet dropped three 500-pound bombs on a building in Gaza City where the founder of the Hamas organization, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was meeting with others. The assassination attempt failed, but he and four of his assistants (along with numerous bystanders, including children) were wounded.

Hamas said it would seek revenge. Two suicide bombings took place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem a few days later, in which 15 persons were killed and many more were injured.

The occupied Palestinian territories are again sealed off and the Palestinian population is under curfew. In Israel, security on highways to the major cities, as well as within the towns, has been tightened.

Joe Groves, program coordinator for the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Middle East Interfaith Peace Builders Program, told the World, “Targeted killings and war undercut any efforts at peace and perpetuate suicide bombings.”

Ahmed Korei, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s nominee to replace Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister, condemned the bombings. “We condemn all acts of killing that target innocents, whether they be Palestinians … or the Israelis who were victims of today’s explosion,” Korei said in a statement. “Such incidents confirm the necessity for both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to … examine the most effective ways to put an end to the killing.”

The Bush administration is complicit in the escalation of violence. It has not pressed Israel to live up to its end of the road map, pressuring only the Palestinians to “crack down” on Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israel has refused to remove the illegal settlements on Palestinian lands, which is part of the road map terms as well.

U.S. foreign policy issues remain at the center of the crisis in Israel and Palestine. The Bush administration is carrying out its strategic plans for U.S. domination of the region. The impact of the Iraq war and occupation goes far beyond the Iraqi borders.

Outlining his ideas about the basis for peace, Groves said, “There needs to be a recognition that any peace agreement must begin with dismantling the settlements and the apartheid wall.” He also said that for all practical purposes the road map is dead, but that a successful peace plan must be negotiated.

Israeli and Palestinian peace forces are strengthening their activities protesting the Israeli occupation. The peace movement argues that the occupation and the illegal assassinations of Palestinians by the Israeli army undermine any efforts for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

Israeli women of the Coalition of Women for Peace, along with the Gush-Shalom peace bloc, the International Solidarity Movement, and women of the Tulkarem branch of the Palestinian People’s Party (formerly the Palestinian CP), organized a protest action against the Israeli Separation Wall near the Israeli crossing point into the West Bank town of Tulkarem.

In a statement to the press, Gila Svirsky, the chair of the Women Coalition, described how 500 Israeli women and other peace activists gathered on one side of the Israeli army checkpoint into Tulkarem, while on the Palestinian side an even larger contingent of Palestinian women gathered.

Svirsky described how the Israeli soldiers tried to stop the protest action by pushing the women and trying to snatch away the posters. Some soldiers tried to disperse the Palestinian women and fired some warning shots and tear gas at them. But the women would not yield.

After negotiation with the officer-in-command of the checkpoint, a group of the Israeli women were allowed to cross and join their Palestinian co-protesters, bringing them school textbooks and other school equipment, such as school bags filled with color pencils, pencil sharpeners and erasers. “We went there and were welcomed with embraces and kisses,” Svirsky stressed.

Judith Le Blanc can be reached at jleblanc@pww.org;
Hans Lebrecht at pww@pww.org

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