As Israel buries its dead, fears of new violence grow

U.S. envoy Zinni scheduled to return Thursday for talks

Israel may let Arafat move

March 11, 2002|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM -- The Moment Cafe was one of the "in" places in the city, often so crowded that people waited in line just to enjoy a coffee and a croissant in the small, shaded garden.

David Glazer, 45, often passed by the one-story shop with its signature slanted green roof as he ran errands in his neighborhood. "Every time, I looked inside and thought, boy, what a great place," he said. "Of course, that also makes it a perfect target."

The Islamic Resistance Movement, known as Hamas, thought so as well. On Saturday night, the group dispatched a suicide bomber who apparently blended in well with the young Israelis who frequent the cafe. He got past an armed guard and blew himself up in the entranceway.

Eleven people and the bomber -- all in their 20s -- died, and at least 50 others were injured.

The blast destroyed the cafe, which is around the corner from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's official residence. Two more Israelis, including a baby girl, died the same night in a shooting spree in the coastal city of Netanya.

Yesterday, Israel spent another day burying its dead -- which has become almost a ritual -- as the attacks closed out the deadliest week of the 17-month conflict. Despite renewed diplomatic efforts to stop the escalating bloodshed, the attacks might usher in another round of fighting.

Retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni is scheduled to return to the region Thursday. "He's going to stay in the region and fight his way through this," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday as U.S. officials condemned the latest violence. "We're not going to allow acts of violence to stop General Zinni from doing his work."

Zinni has gotten Sharon to concede to resuming cease-fire talks without first demanding seven days of calm on the Palestinian side. And in another concession, Sharon said yesterday that he is prepared to allow Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat freedom of movement after months of confinement, saying the Palestinian leader has made arrests in the slaying of an Israeli Cabinet minister. The premier didn't give a date.

But Israeli officials said they would not curtail military strikes until there is a cease-fire agreement. Sharon's security Cabinet decided yesterday to escalate its responses and begin a partial call-up of army reservists to bolster its fighting force.

Dissenting ideas for peace

Other Israeli authorities pushed different solutions to the violence.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was to meet last night with Palestinian legislative speaker Abu Ala, the first time the two have met in more than two weeks -- before the latest round of violence erupted. Israeli parliament member Yossi Sarid, leader of the opposition Meretz Party, called for Sharon to quit the government, saying that "shows of force are useless."

Army Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz said yesterday that the only way to end terror is to reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip, something that Sharon has repeatedly said he will not do. Mofaz also warned Israelis to brace for a new wave of terror attacks this week in advance of Zinni's visit. He said many extremist groups will try to thwart the peace process.

In Cairo, Egypt, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, expanding on his country's Mideast peace initiative, said yesterday that to get "complete peace from the Arabs," Israel should allow an independent Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital in addition to withdrawing from formerly Arab land.

Prince Saud al-Faisal, speaking to reporters after meeting for an hour with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, did not say whether all of Jerusalem, rather than just the eastern part captured in 1967, should be ceded to the Palestinians. But that would be unacceptable to Israel, which seeks Jerusalem as its own capital.

So this week might be similar, and possibly harsher, than last week, when the Israeli army launched its largest offensive in the Palestinian territories to date, with daily bombardments by warplanes and raids into refugee camps. And a sense of fear and desperation is growing on both sides of the divide.

Palestinians are emptying out of refugee camps to avoid the Israeli onslaughts, and resistance was described as sporadic when the army moved into a camp near Bethlehem on Saturday. Last week, dozens of Palestinians, including many civilians, died in heavy fighting in two camps in the northern West Bank. In a camp in the West Bank city of Tulkarm, 600 Palestinians surrendered and put down their arms, an unprecedented act.

Early yesterday, Apache helicopter gunships fired 30 missiles into Arafat's presidential compound in Gaza City. The blasts destroyed the oft-targeted complex, which is a symbol of Palestinian independence.

Last night, the army launched airstrikes in Gaza and outside Ramallah, north of Jerusalem, continuing to blow up Palestinian government buildings. Troops also surrounded the northern West Bank city of Qalqilya and began moving into two adjacent refugee camps.

Foiled attacks

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