Despite Talks of Pending Ceasefire, Violence Continues

Wednesday, May 2, 2001 | Tag Cloud Tags:

David Dolan
May 2, 2001

Despite talk of a pending ceasefire, intense violence continues today in the troubled Promised Land. Another mortar attack took place late this morning in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli civilian driver was shot dead earlier today when his car was ambushed by Palestinian gunmen on a road near Ramallah, north of Jerusalem. Sadly, the victim’s father was murdered in a similar attack only three months ago. The dead man, 31 year old Assaf Hershkovitz, was a resident of the Jewish community of Ofra. He leaves behind a wife and two children. Reports from the scene say around 25 bullets were fired by two terrorists at his car. The assailants then fled for safety into nearby Palestinian-controlled territory. Israeli forces have sealed off the area. A Palestinian group issued a statement in Beirut claiming it had carried out the deadly attack.

Earlier this morning, a resident of Beit Shean in the Jordan Valley was attacked as he drove on a bypass road near the Arab town of Nablus. He was wounded by bullets that struck both of his legs. Soldiers who witnessed the ambush chased the attackers and managed to apprehend them. A Jewish mother was stabbed in the back yesterday as she played with her baby son in a park in an Israeli settlement near the Palestinian town of Jenin. Doctors said she is in moderate condition this morning after being treated for her wounds. A major terror attack was averted last night here in Jerusalem. This reporter was among local drivers whose cars were diverted by police from the main north-south road that passes by the historic walled Old City. This occurred soon after Jerusalem and vicinity was drenched in an unpredicted downpour that came during an intense lightening storm. Traffic was halted on the busy road after a suspicious package was spotted by an Israeli civilian at a bus stop next to the Old City’s stone walls. Police sappers quickly went into action, discovering a powerful bomb inside the package. They said several gas cylinders had been placed inside the bag, connected to a detonating device. They suspect that the bomb was remotely controlled, and would have been set off when a city bus arrived at the stop.

Several Palestinians died in mysterious circumstances on Monday. A home in Ramallah was leveled last night in a powerful explosion, reportedly killing two Arab children and wounding several adults. Palestinians blame Israel for the blast, but the army has denied any involvement, saying terrorists may have been preparing a bomb in the house when it prematurely exploded. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was reportedly in Ramallah when the blast occurred. Israeli officials say two known Hamas militants were killed when a car-bomb they were apparently preparing exploded prematurely in Gaza City last evening. The blast took place outside the home of Hamas activist Hisham Abu Khaled. Palestinian officials blamed Israel for the incident, but the army strongly denies this. Earlier in the day, a van owned by an Israeli family exploded outside a Jewish-owned sewing shop in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli woman and her daughter were reportedly heading to the vehicle when the explosion shook the area. A Palestinian who worked in their sewing shop was instantly killed in the blast, and another wounded. Security officials suspect that the bomb was planted by Palestinian militants as a warning to Arabs who continue to work in Jewish-owned businesses in the Gaza Strip. Islamic groups have called on Arabs workers to break all contacts with Jewish employees. In other incidents, two Palestinian mortar shells were fired late this morning at the Jewish settlement of Morag, but no casualties were reported. Seven other shells were aimed at the civilian community of Gadid last night, again causing no injuries. Israeli forces stationed nearby directed tank fire at the Palestinian shooting positions.

The latest spasm of violence comes as Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is in the United States to discuss an Egyptian-Jordanian ceasefire proposal. He told reporters in New York that Israel wants several months of calm before formal peace negotiations could be resumed. He said that in the meantime, more Palestinians will be allowed to work inside of Israel’s pre-1967 borders, despite continuing terror attacks. That statement has been attacked by some right-wing Israeli politicians who termed it an open invitation for more terror atrocities. Meanwhile Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak angrily accused Peres on Monday of misleading him at a meeting the two held in Cairo on Sunday. Mubarak, who says he is heavily promoting his new peace plan as an alternative to a brewing Mideast war, said that Israeli officials had “played tricks with me” by allegedly misleading him into thinking they had already accepted his ceasefire proposal. However, foreign ministry officials responded that it was Mubarak who had betrayed them by publicly claiming a ceasefire had been arrived at when he knew this was not the case. “Mubarak was trying to pressure us into accepting his proposal without modifications by falsely portraying it as a done deal,” said one official. Israel is resisting a Palestinian attempt to place political conditions on the ceasefire plan.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer held a tense meeting with Red Cross officials yesterday to try and get information on three young Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah militia forces along the Israel-Lebanon border last October. Ben Eliezer said afterwards that the Red Cross has failed to provide any information at all on the Israeli victims despite many promises to do so, adding to fears that the abducted soldiers may have been killed. The Red Cross officials reportedly replied to the implied criticism by blasting Israel for its “repressive policies” in the disputed territories, including “deliberately attacking Red Cross ambulances.” Ben Eliezer shot back that Palestinian militants have often used such ambulances to transport weapons into the middle of battle zones. In Beirut, Hizbullah has again vowed to launch a “revenge attack” in response to an Israeli air strike last month on a Syrian radar site in Lebanon. Syrian officials repeated their threats to do the same over the weekend. Israeli security officials are said to be concerned over an editorial which appeared in a government-controlled Syrian newspaper last week that claimed the Assad regime is “preparing a strategic response” to the Israeli air strike. They are reportedly worried that the phrase might be alluding to a possible ground-to-ground missile attack upon Israeli targets. Writing in various newspapers over the past two weeks, most Israeli military analysts have said they strongly doubt that Syria would risk a major confrontation with the well-armed Jewish State by launching any significant counter-attack, but some say it could occur as part of a larger Arab and Iranian plot to take on Israel even if this sparks a full-scale regional war.

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