Worthy Christian News » Israel-Palestinian Conflict » Israeli Officials Hopeful Mortar Attacks subside with Arafat's Announcement
April 20, 2001
Israeli officials say they are hopeful that mortar attacks upon Israeli civilian centers will subside after Yasser Arafat announced yesterday that Palestinians carrying out such assaults would be punished. However, one official in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office said he suspected that Arafat was only speaking for foreign consumption, and would not actually do much to halt the firings. The announcement came after Arafat met in Ramallah with senior United Nations and European Union officials. Until now, the Palestinian leader had said nothing publicly about the daily attacks, which began to escalate last month and reached a peak earlier this week. However, additional mortars were fired last night after the announcement was made. The shells were aimed at a kibbutz farming settlement inside Israel's pre-1967 border. No casualties were reported. Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders had repeatedly maintained that they could not stop the escalating mortar attacks, which they blamed on Islamic militant forces. However, Israeli intelligence said the mortar shells were being produced in a PA factory and then passed on to Muslim forces in order to obscure PA involvement.
In response to Arafat's announcement, the Israeli army has begun lifting travel restrictions imposed inside the Gaza Strip earlier this week. The move came after the inner Security Cabinet met on Thursday and decided to end large-scale army operations for now. The senior ministers decided to return to a policy of "local action" aimed mainly at locating and arresting or killing known terrorist activists. Meanwhile the army strongly denied that it had anything to do with a large explosion at Palestinian Force 17 headquarters in Ramallah yesterday. Palestinian media initially claimed that an Israeli missile had been fired at the building, but later downplayed the claim, saying a gas canister had apparently exploded at the site. Israeli officials speculated that a car bomb being prepared in the building had prematurely blown up. In Jerusalem, a Palestinian opinion poll was released showing massive support for the continuation of the violent uprising. The poll, taken by a professional Palestinian polling organization, revealed that over 80% of those questioned favor further violence, while a mere 13% said the uprising should come to an end. Only 40% expressed support an eventual return to the Oslo peace process.
The atmosphere remains tense along the Israel-Lebanon border today after Hizbullah vowed to retaliate for Monday's Israeli air strike on a Syrian military position east of Beirut. More ominously, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad told US President George Bush by telephone that he "reserves the right to retaliate in the manner that we find appropriate." According to Assad's official spokesman, the threat was issued during a call that Bush made to the Syrian leader on Thursday. The spokesman said Assad urged Bush to "be courageous enough to describe the Israeli attack as an act of aggression that has dealt a grievous blow to the Mideast peace process." The spokesman attacked statements by US Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN chief Kofi Annan blaming Syrian-backed Hizbullah forces for sparking the violence by attacking an Israeli tank and killing a soldier last weekend. He claimed the US and UN statements "provoked the Arab masses everywhere."
Israeli officials say they are concerned that the harsh Syrian rhetoric and threats of retaliation may indicate that the Assad regime is seriously considering launching a revenge attack upon Israeli forces, even if this could result in a major Syrian-Israel armed conflict. They suspect that Syrian leaders may see a conflict with Israel as a means of thwarting growing calls in Lebanon for Syrian occupation forces to leave the country. However, they also note that Syria's main Mideast ally, Iran, has suddenly become embroiled this week in a cross-border shooting match with Iraqi forces, which may cause Syrian leaders to think twice about taking on more powerful Israeli forces at this time. Before the clashes broke out, Iraq and Iran had announced that they had successfully patched up their differences in order to join forces in supporting the Palestinian uprising.
Over 1,000 Christians from many countries gathered in Jerusalem yesterday to repent before God and the Jewish people for centuries of Christian antisemitism, climaxing in the hideous Nazi holocaust. The special Holocaust Day ceremony was organized by the Germany-based Evangelical Sisters of Mary with the help of the International Christian Embassy and other local groups. Lutheran, Anglican, Dutch Reformed and Free Church ministers from around the world read out scriptures and statements of repentance during the ceremony. A moving speech was then delivered by Geoffrey Smith of Christian Friends of Israel in England. His voice cracking with emotion, he told dozens of invited Jewish guests that the corporate Church had grievously sinned by failing to obey the commandments of Jesus in its attitudes and actions towards them.
The assembled Christians then rose to their feet before the invited holocaust survivors an other Jewish guests and recited the following statement of repentance: "For 2000 years God has been grieving over our attitude towards our elder brother Israel. By our actions we have shown ourselves to be foes of His Word and of His redemptive purposes. Everything we know about God comes to us through Israel. Jesus Himself said, 'Salvation is from the Jews' (John 4:22). In opposing the Jewish people, we have opposed God. Although we cannot undo centuries of evil, nor restore the dead to life, we can at least acknowledge our failure and resolve to mend our ways. As we now renounce antisemitism, past and present, we pledge to work against all antisemitism in the future." The Christian participants, many of them from Germany, then recited an "act of confession" that detailed some of the specific "crimes and injustices" committed against the Jewish people down through the centuries in mainly Christian countries. The confessors then stated that they "repent and plead with Almighty God that He might have mercy upon us and forgive us for what we and our forefathers have done to His chosen people." A copy of the confession, signed by those in attendance and thousands of Christians elsewhere, was then presented to an Israeli official who said it would be stored in the government archives. After thanking the participants for their action and reciting some scripture, he pronounced the Aaronic blessing over the international Christian crowd, calling upon the God of Israel to "make His face shine upon you, and give you peace."