Saturday, June 14, 2003

A deadly detour - Aqaba Road map covered in blood
'In the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv, the journalist Eli Bernstein noted that there have been a number of remarkably similar suspiciously timed air strikes since Sharon came to power: "January 14, 2002: After the first month of quiet since the violence broke out, and after Arafat ordered a ceasefire, Raed Karmi, the Tanzim commander in Tulkarm was assassinated. The reaction was not long in coming: a wave of horrific terror washed over the country ...

'"July 23, 2002: In the course of feverish efforts to bring about a signed agreement between the Palestinian Authority and [Hamas], Salah Shehada, commander of the Hamas military wing, was assassinated. This assassination led to a wave of terror attacks ...

'"March 8, 2003: Two hours only before the PLO convention met, which was meant to discuss the appointment of a new prime minister, Ibrahim Makadme, a senior Hamas leader, was assassinated. Two days afterwards a soldier was killed in a shooting attack ... and four were injured. At the end of the same month, a suicide bomber exploded in a Netanya cafe."'

Sharon's tactics are remarkably blunt, almost arrogant, amounting to a slap in the face for Bush. But he calculates apparently correctly that Bush and the US will fall into line:

'Mr Powell and other Bush Administration officials made it clear the US would temper any further criticism of Mr Sharon since Wednesday's suicide bombing in Jerusalem and would instead concentrate on eliminating the threat from Hamas... US officials also refrained from repeating Mr Bush's earlier criticism of the Israeli Government over its retaliatory attacks on Hamas, which killed civilians as well as Hamas figures. Mr Bush, having announced the policy to isolate Hamas, on Thursday avoided any discussion of the Middle East crisis... The escalating violence in the Middle East has sharply swung the US Congress away from support of the road map and behind Mr Sharon's tough line.'

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