Bombs again in Israel Renewed attack: Opinions harden, just as Hamas wants.

February 27, 1996

WITH A SUICIDE bus bomb in Jerusalem and a car bomb in Askhelon, Hamas' undeclared six-month cease-fire has ended. As the terrorists intended, the twin tragedies had domino effects. A poll taken later showed the peace-making Yitzhak Peres only 3 points ahead of his hard-line rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, in the May 29 election -- down from a 15-point lead three days earlier. Hamas wants Mr. Netanyahu to win and the peace process to stop.

Israel, which had just reopened the borders after shutting them for a bomb scare, closed them again. This deprives 60,000 Palestinians of work to support their families. This, as Palestinian President Yasser Arafat warned, causes despair and hardship where the economic fruits of peace have not yet blossomed. It is what Hamas wants.

A rented car roared out of East Jerusalem yesterday into a bus stop where Israeli settlers wait for transportation, killing one woman and injuring 22. When the driver leaped out, two armed onlookers shot him dead. Jerusalem's police chief later said it probably was an accident, not terrorism. Hamas could only cheer.

These events are not distant to the United States. Two Americans were murdered on the Jerusalem bus. The ill-fated driver Monday was an Arab-American visitor. Small wonder that U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk joined many Israelis in criticizing President Arafat for not acting forcefully enough against terrorism. PLO police rounded up 60 Hamas suspects but it was not clear these included ten Israel sought.

A Hamas reprisal had been expected after the assassination of its leading bomb-maker in Gaza on Jan. 5, which was widely attributed to Israel. Now Hamas says it will maintain the terror. Mr. Arafat's attempt to channel it into the political process in Palestine has failed.

Mr. Peres was right to vow both to continue the peace effort and strike at the terrorists. But it is not enough to defeat them tacticly. It is also imperative for Israelis not to let Hamas terrorists win or manipulate the Israeli election, or halt the talks on the status of Palestine which also begin in May.

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