The fragile peace efforts launched a week ago at the Middle East summit in Aqaba, Jordan, appeared to be unraveling at a dizzying pace this week, as Israel and the Palestinians were drawn back into a familiar and bloody pattern of violence and retaliation.
Palestinian support for Iraq took on a new dimension this week with a suicide bombing in Israel that Islamic Jihad said was aimed at showing solidarity with Baghdad. Dozens of people were wounded, six seriously, when a suicide bomber blew himself up March 30 next to a crowded restaurant in the coastal city of Netanya. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility and identified the bomber as a resident of Tulkarm. The group\'s secretary, Ramadan Shalakh, said the attack commemorated Land Day, which itself marks the deaths of six Israeli Arabs during protests in 1976 against state confiscation of Arab lands in the Galilee. Shalakh also said the bombing was a show of solidarity with the Iraqi people.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is vowing to step up targeted killings of suspected Palestinian terrorists. Israel\'s practice of targeted killings is not new, but Sharon\'s statements again threw a spotlight on the controversial policy. He made the comment following a terror attack Dec. 27 at a West Bank yeshiva, in which four students were killed and 10 others wounded. Reflecting the odd vagaries of Middle East politics, his vow also came as Israeli and Palestinian officials began reviewing the latest draft of a U.S. \"road map\" for achieving peace in the region.
Reports of the death of a gradual Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire plan may be premature. A lot of evidence surfaced this week that the initial skepticism that greeted the \"Gaza/Bethlehem First\" plan was justified. But there were also facts to buttress the optimistic view that the plan might reduce nearly two years of violence.
Mushrooms, peppers and extra cheese, please -- but hold the explosives. Concerns about booby-trapped pizzas have led the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to impose restrictions on the use of a Web site that allows users to spice up the Israeli army service by sending pies to soldiers.
In the Byzantine politics of the Middle East, even a suicide bombing is subject to differing interpretations. After a suicide bomber detonated his explosives aboard a bus near Haifa on Wednesday, killing eight Israelis and wounding 14, Palestinian officials said the attack proved that Israel\'s military operation in the West Bank was ineffective in halting terror. The Bush administration said the attack reinforced the need for Israel to withdraw its forces. Yet, Israeli officials countered that the attack proved the necessity of continuing the operation until the entire network of Palestinian terror is eradicated.
Six Israeli defense officials are debating whether the government should take steps to prevent the collapse of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat\'s regime. The Israeli daily Ma\'ariv reported that officials are warning that the collapse of the Palestinian Authority could lead to chaos in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
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