Gunmen launch deadly attack on Munich shopping mall, whereabouts unknown

Gunmen attacked a busy mall in the German city of Munich on Friday evening, killing at least eight people and sending shoppers running for their lives from what police said was a terrorist attack.

Authorities told the public to get off the streets as the city – Germany's third biggest – went into lockdown with transport halted and highways sealed off.

A police spokesman said three gunmen were on the run after the initial shooting subsided. The city was placed under a state of emergency as police hunted for them.

“We are telling the people of Munich there are shooters on the run who are dangerous,” he said. “We are urging people to stay indoors.”

Police said later that eight people had been killed and an undetermined number wounded. A ninth body had also been found and they were checking to see it was one of the gunmen.

Munich newspaper TZ said one of the shooters was dead. German news magazine Focus said a gunman had shot himself in the head. Reuters could not immediately confirm either report.

As special forces deployed in the city, some people remained holed up in the Olympia shopping centre which police said had been evacuated.

“Many shots were fired, I can't say how many but it's been a lot,” said a shop worker hiding in a store room inside the mall.

It was the third major act of violence against civilians in Western Europe in eight days. Previous attacks in France and Germany were claimed by the Islamic State militant group.

A police spokesman said there was no immediate indication that it was an Islamist attack but it was being treated as a terrorist incident.

Friday is also the five-year anniversary of the massacre by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway in which he killed 77 people. Breivik is a hero for far-right militants in Europe and America.


There was no immediate claim of responsibility but supporters of Islamic State celebrated on social media.

“The Islamic state is expanding in Europe,” read one Tweet.

Two witnesses told n-tv television that they saw a man dressed as Santa Claus walking away from the scene of the shooting with a crowd of people. One said the man had blonde hair, was not carrying a weapon but had a suitcase.

A video posted online – whose authenticity could not be confirmed – showed a man dressed in black outside a McDonalds by the roadside, drawing a handgun and shooting towards members of the public.

A worker at a shop in the mall, Harun Balta, said: “We are still stuck inside the mall without any information, we're waiting for the police to rescue us.”

Police spokeswoman said six people were killed and an undetermined number wounded. Thye were treating it as a terrorist incident.

Witnesses had seen shooting both inside the mall and on nearby streets, he said.

Munich's main railway station was also evacuated. BR television said police had also sealed off many highways north of Munich had been shut down and people were told to leave them.

The shopping centre is next to the Munich Olympic stadium, where the Palestinian militant group Black September took 11 Israeli athletes hostage and eventually killed them during the 1972 Olympic Games.

Friday's attack took place a week after a 17-year-old asylum-seeker wounded passengers on a German train with an axe. Bavarian police shot dead the teenager after he wounded four people from Hong Kong on the train and injured a local resident while fleeing.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told Bild newspaper's Friday edition before the mall attack that there was “no reason to panic but it's clear that Germany remains a possible target”.

The incidents in Germany follow an attack in Nice, France, on Bastille Day in which a Tunisian drove a truck into crowds, killing 84. Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende said on Twiiter: “Horrible killings in Munich. Taking place on the same day as we mourn & remember the appalling terror that hit Norway so hard five years ago.”

U.S. President Barack Obama pledged support for Germany.

“We don't yet know exactly what's happening there, but obviously our hearts go out to those who may have been injured,” Obama said.

Death toll in New York train crash revised to six from seven

Investigators examining the circumstances of a New York commuter train accident that killed six people said on Wednesday they were collecting recording devices from the site where the train hit a vehicle stalled on the tracks in the railroad's worst-ever accident.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said five passengers died in the Metro-North train crash near the suburb of White Plains on Tuesday evening, not six, as he had previously announced. The driver of the Jeep Cherokee that the train struck while it was stuck on the tracks also died.

Fifteen other people were injured, including seven in very serious condition, the governor added.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state-controlled agency that runs the railroad, said the crash was the deadliest accident for Metro-North, the second-largest commuter railroad in the United States.

The National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency that investigates transportation accidents, plans to examine signals at the crossing, the highway that intersects the rail tracks and any issues linked with the fire, according to board member Robert Sumwalt.

The highway signals, rail signals and the crossing arms at the intersection all have recording devices that NTSB investigators will examine, Sumwalt said in remarks to reporters at Reagan National Airport outside Washington.

Thousands of commuters faced a snarled journey to work on Wednesday morning in the aftermath of the accident.

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said roughly 45,000 riders take the Metro-North Railroad's Harlem Line on an average weekday, about 14,000 of whom board north of where the crash occurred and would be directly affected. Parts of the line will remain closed on Wednesday, according to the MTA.

Several commuters said they were wary about riding in the front car of the train but others were unfazed. Peter Greco, a risk manager at a New York City office of BNP Paribas, said the only delays he encountered was a longer line at a White Plains parking lot.

“I don't think riding in front will bother me,” he said.


The electrified third rail pierced the Jeep and then tore through the floor of the first car of the train, officials said, charring the carriage and sending billows of smoke into the air. Damage to the other seven cars was minimal.

“The third rail stops at the grade crossing, and so that's where the contact with the automobile was made,” Thomas Prendergast, the MTA's chairman, told reporters at the scene late on Tuesday.

Media reports said the driver of the Jeep got out briefly to try to push it off the tracks, then got back in before it was hit by the train.

“It appears that the gasoline tank on the car burst and that started the fire,” Cuomo said, adding that the fire consumed the car and the front train carriage.

Some 650 passengers regularly take the train, which carries commuters through affluent New York City suburbs such as Westchester County, one of the richest in the United States.

Westchester is home to many bankers, doctors and corporate lawyers, boasts a median household income of roughly $82,000, and houses the headquarters of major companies including IBM and PepsiCo Inc.

Tuesday's crash is the latest in a string of accidents involving Metro-North trains in recent years.

One derailed near the northern edge of New York City on Dec. 1, 2013, killing four people and injuring 70. It was traveling nearly three times the speed limit for the section of track where it crashed, investigators said.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino made a distinction between that crash, which was the result of a train employee error, and Tuesday's accident. But he said the latest accident was still under investigation.

In May 2013, two Metro-North passenger trains collided between Fairfield and Bridgeport, Connecticut, injuring more than 70 people and halting services.

The NTSB released a report late last year that identified common safety issues with the railroad following probes of those accidents and three others between May 2013 and March 2014.

Jewish family attacked with acid in West Bank

A Palestinian man threw a chemical substance believed to be acid at an Israeli family in the West Bank on Friday, injuring a man and four children, Israeli police and the military said.

The assailant was shot and wounded immediately after the attack, which took place at a checkpoint south of Jerusalem.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the attacker had “poured an unknown substance suspected to be acid on a Jewish family.” She said a civilian at the scene shot and wounded the assailant.

The Israeli military said the Israeli man had stopped to pick up the Palestinian as a hitchhiker and then the attack occurred.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tension between Palestinians and Israelis, particularly in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Over the past four months, 10 Israelis and a foreign visitor have been killed by Palestinians in knife or car-based attacks, while at least a dozen Palestinians have also been killed, including most of those who carried out the killings.

On Wednesday, a Palestinian minister died shortly after a confrontation with an Israeli border policeman in the West Bank. The policeman grabbed the minister by the neck during a scuffle and minutes he collapsed with breathing problems.

An Israel official who attended the autopsy said the minister had died of a heart attack possibly brought on by stress, while the Palestinian pathologist concluded that the grab to the neck more directly lead to heart failure.

In the Gaza Strip, tens of thousands marched in celebration of the 27th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist Hamas group, in the largest show of support for the organization there since a five-week war with Israel that ended in August.

In the hostilities, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians, Palestinian officials said. More than 70 Israelis were also killed, most of them soldiers.

Fathy Hammad, a former cabinet minister, saw the large turnout as showing Hamas remained popular despite the war's devastation and the hardships of an Egyptian and Israeli blockade of the coastal territory.

“Once one road is blocked, another one opens,” Hammad said.

But he cautioned against Palestinian frustration with what they see as a slow pace of efforts to rebuild homes and other property, warning this could bring about further confrontation.

“We will extract reconstruction by our rifles, if there will be no rebuilding, there will be another explosion,” Hammad told those gathered at a rally in Gaza's Jebalya refugee camp.

L.A. native, father of infant murdered in Jerusalem terror attack recovering from injuries

UPDATE Oct. 24: Consul general David Siegel released a statement Thursday on the recent terrorist attack in Jerusalem:

“We are heartbroken at the savage murder of three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun, daughter of Los Angeles native Shmueli Braun and New York native Chana Braun. Chaya was killed in a brutal terrorist attack in Jerusalem. We condemn this horrific act and the incitement that led to it, which is the latest of many attacks perpetrated against Israelis in Jerusalem in recent months,” Siegel said.


A native of Hancock park and now a resident of Jerusalem, Shmueli Braun, the father of the three-month old baby girl murdered on Wednesday, Oct. 22,  in a Jerusalem terror attack, is now recovering from head trauma and broken ribs, according to Hillygram, an email issued daily connecting members of the Los Angeles Orthodox community.

Braun’s parents, Moshe and Esther Braun, wrote to the Jewish Journal in an email that they are “en route to Israel”, where the shiva, or seven-day mourning period has just started for their infant granddaughter, Chaya Zissel Braun. Hundreds attended the funeral Wednesday at Har Hamenuchot in Jerusalem. 

The baby was thrown about 30 feet from her stroller when Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, an Arab resident of East Jerusalem, intentionally plowed his car into people standing on the platform at the Ammunition Hill light rail station, injuring seven in addition to Shmueli and his baby daughter.

Shaludi, the nephew of a deceased Hamas bomb-maker, had previously posted content on Facebook that indicated his support for terrorism and violence against Israelis. He was shot by security guards as he tried to escape and later died of his wounds at the hospital.

Shmueli, his wife Chana and their daughter were reportedly coming from the Western Wall when Shaludi attacked—it was their daughter’s first visit to Judaism’s holiest site. Shimshon Halperin, the baby’s grandfather, told reporters outside Hadassah University Medical Center that the Brauns had tried unsuccessfully for years to have a baby. Chaya was their first and only child.

The baby’s grandparents, Moshe and Esther, attend Congregation Etz Chaim, Baruch Cohen said, adding that the family is “very religious, quiet, sweet [and] very private.”

French consul injured after Israeli raid on Gaza

France’s consul to the Gaza Strip, his wife and 13-year-old daughter were injured during an Israeli air strike on Sunday night, French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

Valero told reporters the three were hit by shrapnel at their residence in Gaza, which is located 200 meters from the site of an Israeli missile attack, he added.

“France condemns the consequences of the raid,” he said. “While we are all for Israeli security, France recalls the utmost necessity to avoid civilian harm,” Valero said, without specifying the nature of their injuries.

The raid, which killed one policeman and wounded four others after Palestinian militants from the coastal territory fired a rocket into southern Israel, is likely to strain already difficult relations between Paris and Jerusalem.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has written to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reaffirm friendship despite what he refers to as their “differing views on the Middle East”.

Sarkozy’s comments, in a condolence message to Netanyahu for the death of his father-in-law, seemed to make an effort to try to clear the air a week after a reported gaffe this month at the G20 summit in Cannes, when he was overheard telling U.S. President Barack Obama he thought Netanyahu was “a liar”.

Reporting By Vicky Buffery; writing by John Irish

Teen injured in school bus bombing in dire condition

The condition of an Israeli teenager injured in a Palestinian rocket attack on a school bus has worsened.

Daniel Viflic’s condition was downgraded Tuesday to extremely critical and life threatening, according to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

Five days after a rocket fired from Gaza slammed into a school bus traveling near Kibbutz Sa’ad, located in southern Israel near the border with Gaza, Viflic is in a deep coma and is unresponsive, showing no sign of brain activity, Ynet reported. All medical measures on the boy reportedly have been exhausted.

Viflic, 16, suffered severe head trauma and was given emergency CPR at the scene of the April 7 attack. The bus driver, the only other occupant of the bus, was injured in the leg.

California Man Hurt Badly During Protest in Israel

WASHINGTON (JTA)—An American demonstrator was seriously wounded when Israeli troops and protesters clashed at Israel’s West Bank separation fence.

Tristan Anderson, an International Solidarity Movement activist from the Oakland, Calif., area, was hit in the head Friday by a tear gas cannister fired by Israeli troops, according to the Associated Press.

A spokeswoman for the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer on Friday described Anderson’s condition as “life threatening” and said he was “in critical condition, anethetized and on a ventilator, and undergoing imaging tests.” Anderson, 38, was on a respirator in stable condition, a hospital spokeswoman said Sunday on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

The Israeli military said that some of the 400 protesters who had gathered at the West Bank town of Naalin had thrown rocks at troops. They also said the area of the protest was a closed military zone off-limits to demonstrations.

The AP quoted another ISM activist as saying that troops fired tear gas canisters into the crowd from a hill above the protest site.

Six years ago, another ISM activist, 23-year-old American Rachel Corrie, was killed by an Israeli bulldozer as she tried to block it from demolishing a Palestinian home. The death was ruled an accident by the Israeli military.

Attacks Bolster Turks’ Will to Fight Evil

Following the dastardly attacks in Istanbul targeting Turkish Jews in two synagogues on Nov. 15 that left 25 innocent people dead and several hundred Turkish Jews and Muslims severely injured (see Cover Story, p. 18), I was asked what this all means for Turkey.

It means sadness and sorrow for the lost lives and the loved ones left behind; it certainly means outrage; but it also means determination to fight against this greatest evil of terrorism. It is a terrorism that has no boundaries, that makes no distinction, but is hungry for creating fear and intimidation, and it has no respect for the central and sacred pillars of all universal principles — respect for life and the right to live.

The terror that took place last Saturday in my country should not be classified as an act against a certain group, people, religion or against political and international allies of Turkey. Rather, it should be considered an act against humanity and should be treated as terrorism, plain and simple.

Unfortunately, terrorism is not new for Turkey. For so many years, even before the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, Turkey repeatedly tried to emphasize the importance of fighting against this most dangerous disease.

In the Middle East, Turkey and Israel are two countries that unfortunately have similar experiences with the scourge of international terrorism. Turks and Israelis understand best how it feels to be victims of terrorism and how important it is not to give up on the fight against it.

Suicide bombers kill Israelis just because they are sitting at a cafe, going to school by bus or celebrating a Jewish holiday. And Turks understand what it means to lose loved ones for nothing. Turkey lost almost 40,000 lives to terrorism over 15 years in the ’80s and ’90s and finally emerged victorious.

But at what cost? The fate of all these innocent victims — children, women, men, teachers, civil servants and young soldiers — felled by terrorists only strengthened our determination to defy terror. Consequently, this last cowardly act will also receive the appropriate response and the hand of justice.

Turkey and Israel are the two democracies in an otherwise extremely volatile and unstable region. Both of our democracies are relatively new but sound.

Last month Turkey celebrated the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the republic by our great leader, Kemal Atatürk. Under the republic, the Turkish people take pride in their democracy and secular way of life. The Turkish republic is a living testimony to the compatibility of democracy and a progressive way of life — with a Muslim majority within a civilization that is able to combine the West and the East.

Turkey plays a strategic role at the crossroads of ancient civilizations, different regions and continents. One of Turkey’s goals is to help bridge the gap between diverse cultures and religions.

For centuries, Turkey has enjoyed a richness of diverse cultures and religions living side by side, a testimony of peaceful coexistence and tolerance. The bombings of the synagogues are horrific attacks that undermine this harmony and peace.

But we will not give up. Such events will only strengthen our resolve to ensure that Turkey remains a place where people coexist, regardless of cultural, religious or linguistic background.

What does this latest bombing mean for Americans? Before Sept. 11, 2001, I might have had a more complicated and longer answer. But in the post-Sept. 11 world, it does not need much explanation to understand how it feels when, for no good reason and totally unjustifiably, your people die as a result of cowardly terrorist attacks.

This brings us to the following conclusion: The fight against terrorism must be an international campaign. It is not a problem of one single country or a region; it is the worst problem facing the world.

Turkey, Israel and the United States have much in common: We all embrace democracy, but are losing so many victims to terrorism. When the core values of our societies are challenged, we must stand together.

When all the peace-loving countries — irrespective of whether they have experienced terror on their soil or not — unite to fight collectively against this scourge, then international terrorism can be exterminated from the face of the earth for good.

Engin Ansay, consul general of Turkey in Los Angeles, will speak at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel on Saturday, Nov. 22, 11 a.m.

YULA Alumna Injured in Blast

Tuesday morning prayers at the girls school of Yeshiva High School of Los Angeles (YULA) took a little longer than usual this week.

It wasn’t just the extra Tehillim (Psalms) the high school girls added for their former schoolmate Ariella Feinstein, 20, who was injured in Saturday night’s suicide bombing in Jerusalem. It was that each girl seemed to need just a little more time with her prayers to reflect on what is going on in Israel, and how it keeps getting a little closer to home.

"The younger ones don’t know Ariella, so they relate to it differently. But many of the seniors were just in tears," says Rabbi Sholom Strajcher, educational director at YULA.

Feinstein was injured when shrapnel from the bombs lodged in her legs and face. She is currently recovering from surgery.

Feinstein was the second YULA graduate in just a few months to bring terrorism in Israel closer to home for the Los Angeles Orthodox community. In August, Shoshana Hayman Greenbaum, who graduated from YULA in 1988, was killed when a suicide bomber blew up Sbarro Pizza in downtown Jerusalem.

Rabbi Elazar Muskin of Young Israel of Century City, where the Feinsteins are members, says Feinstein is a "very special, sweet kid" from strong and kind family. Her parents, Dr. Charlie and Alice Feinstein, had just returned from Israel three weeks ago, and Alice Feinstein went back this week to be with her daughter.

It wasn’t until Sunday night that Dina Morrow, 20, also a YULA graduate and a friend of Feinstein’s, told her mother, Linda, that she was in the area when the blast occurred. Morrow told her mother that her roommate, Temima Spetner, a yeshiva student from St. Louis, was seriously injured when the bomb severed Spertner’s femoral artery, and a bolt punctured her intestine and lodged near her spine.

Tali Katz, a YULA senior whose family moved to Los Angeles from Israel five years ago, was deeply affected by news of Feinstein’s injuries.

"When my brother called and told me, I felt that thumping in my heart, that adrenaline rush, like, ‘Oh my God, I know that person,’ " Katz says. "But even people we don’t know are our brothers and sisters and we should feel that thumping in our heart every time — but we don’t."

Sarah Stomel, a senior who is president of the school’s Israel Club said, "I was crying when I heard about Ariella, because it really made me realize that everyone who is hurt or killed has families and friends, and now we are experiencing what they experience every day." The Israel Club, which gives daily and weekly news updates, sells dogtags to help Israel’s MIAs, is initiating a pen-pal program with a school in Israel.

Many of the girls at YULA are planning to attend yeshiva in Israel next year, and they have no intention of changing those plans.

"If we stopped going to Israel and gave up on it, it would be like letting the terrorists win, like we’re letting them scare us off," says YULA senior Esther Behmanesh.

Debbie Schrier, the school’s interim principal, thinks Feinstein’s injuries might penetrate the students’ sense of invulnerability, much as it has done for weary parents.

"Until this the kids felt untouchable, thinking, ‘all right, this is going on but we’re going to Israel anyway.’ But it depends on to what degree this escalates," says Schrier, who has a daughter who is a senior at YULA who plans to go to Israel next year.

The girls, however, seem to have taken a much different lesson from this.

"Ariella told her parents she didn’t regret her year in Israel and she wants to stay," says Tiffany Lev, a senior. "That is total counter attack, because she won’t be afraid."

Stepping Out

When 23-year-old Michal Gaon caught the No. 7 Egged Bus from Hadera to Givat Olga last November, a car bomb detonated nearby, causing severe burns and the loss of both legs.

Gaon is one of 1,890 Jews injured since the Al Aqsa Intifada began more than 13 months ago; another 191 have been killed in terrorist attacks in that period.

On Dec. 9, the Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund and One Family are staging a walk-a-thon in Los Angeles to aid the victims of terror in Israel. While the Los Angeles community has hosted many rallies that show support for people in Israel, this Sunday will be the first to raise funds to benefit the victims of terror.

“It is totally focused on the human element of directly connecting to these families [of victims]. Each walker holds in their hand a poster with a photograph of a victim, and that creates a bond and a purpose,” says Neil Thalheim, 43, founder of the Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund.

Thalheim, a businessman living in Great Neck, N.Y., started the fund in November 2000 in response to a terrorist attack that left 10 Israelis dead. The first event was an impromptu concert starring the Moshav Band which raised more than $30,000. Within days of the concert, Thalheim and his wife, Susan, boarded a plane to Israel to personally distribute the funds to 25 families affected by the attack.

“The fund came about because we felt a tremendous urge to help the terror victims in Israel, and we couldn’t find any other organization that was doing it,” Thalheim says. Recently, the Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund joined forces with One Family, an organization started by the Belzberg family in Jerusalem in response to the Sbarro bombing. The merged organization has many prominent names on its board, including Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, author Jonathan Kellerman and philanthropist and businessman Ronald Lauder.

The Los Angeles walk-a-thon is supported by more than 50 community organizations, including The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Organizers hope that more than 3,000 people will attend and that it will raise at least $250,000.

“Many people here in Los Angeles have loved ones who were hurt, or worse,” says Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “The walk-a-thon is an apolitical event that enables people to find proactive and positive ways to fight the scourge of terrorism.”

Some 90 percent of the funds will be sent directly to the victims and their families, the rest toward administrative costs, Thalheim says. To ensure fair distribution, an oversight team of psychologists and social workers assess each family’s need and allocate funds accordingly. The organization also gives free legal and medical advice to the victims and provides emotional support through a team of volunteer social workers.

“We literally have a staff in place in Israel, that immediately upon the death of a terror victim, visits that home — typically in a matter of hours or days — visits the family, and assesses their needs. Then we make follow-up visits to these families, providing support and assistance to their financial needs,” Thalheim says.

Marc Belzberg, founder of One Family, adds, “We are in this just to do good and help people. Neither Neil nor myself are drawing salaries. None of us are in it for the ego; none of us are in it for glorification.”

The walk-a-thon will take place Dec. 9 at 9 a.m., and
will begin at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, at the corner of Pico Boulevard and
Roxbury Drive. To register, call (310) 772-8170, or log on to .

Taking off the Gloves

Six months into the Palestinian uprising, Israeli doves and hawks are displaying a rare unity in the face of repeated Palestinian onslaughts.

Palestinian attacks in recent days on two settlement enclaves left two Israeli babies among the victims — one, a 10-month-old girl, dead; the other, a 15-month-old boy, gravely wounded — but the attacks did not produce the once-familiar calls from the Israeli left to dismantle the settlements.

The first attack took place March 26, when a Palestinian sniper killed Shalhevet Pass, picking her off as her father wheeled her in a stroller by a Jewish playground in the West Bank city of Hebron.

On Tuesday, in the Atzmona community in the Gaza Strip, a 15-month-old boy was seriously injured after being hit by shrapnel in a Palestinian mortar attack on the settlement. The mother also was hurt, though less seriously than her child.

On Wednesday, Israeli doctors reported an "impressive" improvement following surgery in the condition of Ariel Yered, who had arrived at a local hospital without a discernible pulse.

In times gone by, the attacks would have left Israeli doves demanding the dismantlement of isolated settlements — to avoid "provoking" Palestinian anger — and hawks urging that they be strengthened to show Palestinians that violence is futile.

Such debate now seems anachronistic.

Both groups now roundly blame Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian leadership for the lack of a peaceful solution or of progress toward one, and for the spiraling violence that has claimed 72 Jewish lives since late September.

This unity appears to be stiffening the public’s resolve in the face of daily Palestinian suicide bombings, ambushes, stonings and firefights. Sharon’s decisions on how to strike back at Palestinian violence — which in recent days have involved a marked military escalation on Israel’s part — have encountered little resistance in the political center, though the right is clamoring for a sterner response.

On Sunday, the IDF crossed into an area under Palestinian Authority control and abducted six members of Arafat’s Force 17 presidential guard, charging them with cooperating with Palestinian militants in planning terror attacks against Israelis.

On Tuesday, Israel released three of the men, but the point had been made. As the IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz said, Israel would no longer take lines on the map into account "in our strikes against the terrorists."

Sharon and Ben-Eliezer also have ordered the use of helicopter gunships, despite an earlier pledge from Ben-Eliezer not to deploy them.

Following a wave of bombings in Israeli cities, helicopters were used March 28 to rocket Force 17 targets in Gaza and the West Bank city Ramallah. On Monday, their rockets were used again to kill a leading Islamic Jihad militant in southern Gaza.

On Tuesday, helicopters rocketed a Palestinian naval police base, a Force 17 facility and a compound shared by several Palestinian security services, all in Gaza.

The same day, Sharon rejected an Egyptian-Jordanian proposal for resuming Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak presented the proposal Monday during a meeting with President Bush at the White House, but Sharon, who received it through unofficial channels, sees it as an attempt to renew negotiations while Palestinian violence continues — something he has repeatedly vowed not to do.

As with his other recent actions, Sharon’s rejection met with broad public support.

His basic position — that shooting must stop before talks can resume — appears to jibe with the public mood, which is determined not to reward Palestinian violence.

Earthquake Relief

The death toll from the Jan. 26 earthquake in India may surpass 100,000, with thousands more left injured and homeless. To contribute toward disaster relief, you can send a contribution to Indian Earthquake Relief c/o Jewish Federation Accounting Office, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048.