Violence spirals in Jerusalem and West Bank

Two terrorist bombings within 24 hours in Jerusalem have sent the crisis in Israel and Palestine into a deeper spiral at a time of mounting pressure for establishing a Palestinain state. The escalating violence in the region caused the Bush administration to delay a speech outlining a policy for resolving the Mideast crisis. The U.S. is facing international pressure to initiate a negotiated end to the Israeli occupation.

The Palestinian Authoriy (PA) said that the timing of the recent attacks against Israeli and Palestinian civilians were aimed at disrupting the work toward ending the Israeli occupation and establishing the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.

The June 19 bombings, aimed at civilians on a bus and at an intersection, dramatize the crisis the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has created for the Israeli people. Israeli civilians have increasingly become the targets of rightwing terrorist actions of Hamas and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, who claimed responsiblity for a total of 26 dead and 88 wounded. Since the March 29 invasion of the West Bank the acts of terrorism have not only continued but in fact the latest bombings have caused the largest number of victims ever.

Palestinian leadership both in the PA and academics, writers and elected officials responded immediately to the human tragedy today in Jerusalem. The PA said, “The Palestinian leadership emphasizes its utter denunciation of the Gilo [neighborhood in Jerusalem] attack, which targeted Israeli civilians on a bus this morning and which also resulted in injuries and casualties among Palestinian civilians. The leadership affirms its determination to pursue the perpetrators as well as those responsible for the attack; for such attacks against Israeli civilians endanger our national cause.”

A full page ad in al-Quds, an Arabic daily, signed by 55 Palistinian leaders, said, “We urge those behind military attacks against civilians inside of Isreal to reconsider their positions and to stop pushing our youth to carry out these attacks which only result in deepening hatred between the two peoples.”

George Qassis of the Palestinian Center for Rapproachment Between Peoples in Beit Sahur, West Bank told the World, “We are fighting for outr freedom, dignity and peace. Our peaceful resistance is for peceful co-existence. For Sharon peace is not in his dictionary. All he knows is revenge.”

Sharon reacted by announcing their intention to invade and reoccupy the Palestinian-controlled areas “as long as terror continues.” This was given the blessing of the Bush administration, which said,”they have a right to defend themselves.” The announcement signals a dramatic escalation of the daily military incursions and mass arrests, which have gone on since the end of the five-week “Defensive Shield” occupation that began on March 29. Israeli helicopter bombings of the Jabiliya Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip and tanks entering a number of West Bank cities were being reported at press time.

The PA also described the difficult conditions created by the Israeli occupation despite the disingenous calls by Sharon and Bush to reform the PA security forces. The PA called for the international community, especially the U.S., “to put an end to the Israeli closure and incursions and provide our security apparatus with immediate help, to enable it to carry out its duties towards Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike.”

The statement continued, “It is imperative that the international community acknowledges that there are at least 4,000 Palestinian security officers in Israeli prisons and detention centers, with no given reason, but to cripple the PA’s security duties in accordance with the signed agreements between both sides, particularly after Israel’s total destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, mainly its security institutions.”

The PA also called for emergency action by the United Nations Security Council “to put an end to this painful tragedy of both Palestinian and Israeli peoples, for which the Israeli government is responsible, through its consistent rejection of a just peace and insistence on sustaining its occupation, oppression, military aggression, closure, assassinations and dividing our territory.”

The author recently returned from Israel and Palestine and can be reached at jleblanc@pww.org