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Suicide Bombing Shakes the Truce


Only a few days ago I wrote that the Palestinian-Israeli truce is fragile, and that many give it less than 6 months. Those estimates may have been too optimistic. On Friday, February 25, a suicide bomber exploded himself outside a Tel Aviv discotheque.

This bombing may not mean the end of the truce, but if others follow shortly, it will be difficult to maintain any semblance of "peace process" and the disengagement plan of Ariel Sharon may become politically impractical. Given that there were almost daily reports of Palestinian violations, and that the IDF had prevented at least one suicide bombing during the "truce," Friday's bombing was almost inevitable. The reaction on both sides is much different than it was in the past. Israel is not blaming the Palestinian Authority for direct complicity. Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas and Palestinian officials condemned the bombing in the strongest terms and called it sabotage. Evidently, Israel will give the Palestinian authority a chance to prove itself before taking retaliatory steps. That is not to say that the bombing didn't accomplish part of its purpose already, which was to put spikes in the wheels of the peace process. Israel announced that it was delaying handover of cities to the Palestinian authority. That decision may be justified and necessary, but it was exactly the sort of thing the bombers hoped to accomplish. The bombing was carried out by people claiming to be members of the Islamic Jihad according to the "suicide note" film left by the bomber, Abdullah Badran, and released by the Damascus branch of the Islamic Jihad. Islamic Jihad in Gaza denied any connection with the bombing and blamed it on Hizbollah, as did the Palestinian authority. A member of Damascus Islamic Jihad called an AP correspondent in Beirut and said:

It is illuminating and depressing to see how the various media have twisted the story. BBC and "Reuters both reported that Israel was blaming the Syrians, and made it seem like Israel was trying to make a case against Syria with no evidence. Neither report mentioned the suicide film confession.

The BBC noted:

Israel's defence minister said Syria was behind the attack but he did not threaten any immediate retaliation.

The Israeli accusation adds to the pressure on the Syrian government, already under suspicion for possibly ordering the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.
n 2003, Israeli warplanes bombed a Damascus-area Islamic Jihad base in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed 19 people at a restaurant in Haifa.

Last September, a leader of the militant group Hamas was assassinated in Damascus in what was believed to have been an Israeli attack.

Long-standing tension between Israel and Syria focuses on the Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria which Israel seized in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War.

The BBC report stopped just short of relating the history of all of Israeli-Syrian relations with the exception of the key relevant points: Damascus Islamic Jihad had not only taken responsibility, but there was a videotaped confession of the bomber. Not only Israel, but the Palestinians too blamed outside interference. A suicide attack had taken place, but BBC and Reuters were more interested in the possibility of Israeli retaliation and the focus of the blame than on the actual attack.

The difference in Israeli and Palestinian reactions from those of the Arafat era is gratifying however, and gives hope for peace. Israelis did not, for the most part, blame the Palestine Authority. Palestinian PM Abbas spoke out unequivocally against the terror attack, calling it "sabotage," and began taking actions as well as words to catch the perpetrators and prevent further attacks:

Abbas, who called the security heads together early Saturday morning at his Ramallah home, met with them again during the day and reportedly told them to "bring me results or you will have to resign, as it was in the Gaza Strip." He was refering to the forced retirement of senior officers in the Gaza Strip after armed men broke into Gaza's central prison. A source said Abu Mazen told the
participants: "I want results, not efforts."

The Ha'aretz report continued:

According to Palestinian security sources, the PA will change its legal approach to terror attack perpetrators. In the past, charges brought by the PA against terrorists were for "damaging the national interest." Abbas now has instructed that charges in such cases be changed to "serving the interests of a foreign country," and "serving the agents of a foreign country," which in the past wereaccusations used only in cases of collaboration with Israel.

Some results followed in fact, with the arrest of several associates of Badran's who may have been
involved in the bombing. Israeli security forces also made some arrests. Tulkarm is under Israeli security supervision.

The bombers came from the Tulkarm area, which is under Israeli supervision. The bombing was not the result of any security concessions made by Israel, though it is too early to know how the bombers entered Israel. It may be an ominous reminder that the security fence is not a perfect security solution. It is certainly a reminder that the peace process is hostage to the intentions and plans of extremist groups and states, and will remain so as long as the Palestinian Authority is unwilling or unable to keep order, and as long as Palestinian society is vulnerable to worship of "martyrs" and "martyrdom" and "resistance," which are still given legitimacy by the Palestinian Authority and media.

That attitude is slowly starting to change, but it is not clear if the emphasis should be on "change" or "slowly." Palestine Media Center, the official Palestinian media outlet, reported the event according to the old rules:

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) imposed a curfew early Saturday on the northern West Bank village of Deir al Ghusun, near Tulkarem, detained at least five Palestinians, shot dead a 19-year old Palestinian worker in the Gaza Strip, hours after President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to track down those responsible for the human bombing in Tel Aviv late Friday and "not to stand silent in the face of
this act of sabotage," which claimed four lives and injured at least 30.

These five Palestinians that Israel arrested may be some of the same Palestinians reported as arrested by Palestinian security forces. The Palestinian killed in Gaza was killed on Friday morning, the day BEFORE the bombing, not "hours after" as reported by PMC.

The PMC article continues:

Israeli propaganda was quick to accuse Lebanon’s Hizbullah.

However a Hezbollah official in Beirut denied involvement on Friday. “As far as we are concerned, there is no need to respond to such lies,” the official said.

Israeli "Defense" Minister Shaul Mofaz was to convene a meeting of security
chiefs later Saturday to discuss an Israeli response, Israeli Army Radio

But it was not the Israelis, but rather the Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Authority who were blaming the Hizbollah. Israel was blaming Syria.

The polemics were not confined to Palestinians and their supporters in the media. The Jerusalem Post thundered that the bombing was all the fault of the Palestinian Authority, ignoring the fact that Tulkarm is under Israeli security supervision, and the right-wing >Hatzofeh fulminated :

"Here are the facts. The Palestinians perpetrated the racist mass-murder in the heart of Tel Aviv. The organization that perpetrated [the attack] was a Palestinian organization, [and] the murder was Palestinian. But we, with the idiocy that characterizes the Sharon government, are accusing Syria. Why? Because this enables us to continue to shut our eyes and continue with the stupid and wicked policy of expelling the Jews from Gush Katif."

The Palestinian and Israeli leadership seem to have a new program for a new era, but their media supporters haven't gotten with the program yet.

A second bomber is still free as I write these words.

Ami Isseroff
[Updated Feb 27 16:12]

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000336.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 13 comments

I am not happy with this article because it depressed me, I think it is weell written though

Posted by polls @ 02/26/2005 05:29 PM CST

Who is truly responsible for this crime?

Posted by polls @ 02/26/2005 05:32 PM CST

I think it was very predictable that there would be some "ultra-extreme" element that would attempt to undermine any kind of meaningful progress toward peace, and that some attacks of this nature would continue. The real issues of course are how many there are, how much support the perpetrators receive, and how much effort the Palestinians make toward hunting down the culprits.

Posted by Graham Lester @ 02/26/2005 06:14 PM CST

Could the Palestinians say Hezbollah did the attack in effort to deflect attention from themselves.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 02/27/2005 09:32 PM CST

Also something else from BBC:
The bomber killed four Israelis and injured about 50 people outside a nightclub in Tel Aviv, once again bringing scenes of death and chaos to Israel's streets.

But most parties seemed to be trying to protect the truce agreed by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a recent summit in Egypt.

Overnight, the Israeli army raided a West Bank village. Palestinians say five people were arrested, including the brothers of the alleged bomber.

However, Israeli officials suggested there were no plans for a large-scale military operation.

"The Israeli response will be punctual and will be concerned with the elements directly responsible for carrying out the attack," Israeli army radio quoted a senior defence official as saying.

But Israel is pressing for tougher action from Mr Abbas, declaring that his strategy of negotiating with the Palestinian armed groups is not good enough.

Rogue elements

The main Palestinian factions have not officially signed up to the ceasefire. But they have been observing an informal truce and their leaderships in the occupied territories denied any link to the attack.

The Palestinian bomber gave no warning, his mother said

However, reports quoted some Islamic Jihad officials claiming responsibility for the bombing.

That could suggest a split in the movement between its inside leadership, based in Gaza, and its outside leadership based in Syria, which is said to have more influence over Jihad cells in the West Bank.

Earlier in the day, Palestinian security officials said the bomber might have been recruited by Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamic movement that has long been accused of funding militant cells in the West Bank.

Hezbollah "unequivocally" denied the charge, calling it "a campaign of incitement led by the Hebrew state". Israel has been trying to convince the European Union to label the movement a terrorist group.

'Third party'

Mr Abbas said an unnamed "third party" was behind the bombing, possibly referring to Hezbollah.

On the other hand, it is convenient, and not unusual, for Palestinian officials to blame outside forces for Palestinian attacks - Yasser Arafat did it often.

Whoever was behind the attack, it is clear the Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire is fragile.

Much depends on whether this is an isolated incident or a concerted attempt to sabotage Mr Abbas' strategy of ending violence and renewing political negotiations.
My words:
If Yasser arafat himself use to blame outside people for an attack why would abbas not do the same? I find it odd how Syria is the blame for three incidents at once why would Syria do three incidents especailly after what happen with Harriri.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 02/27/2005 09:42 PM CST

To Butros Dahu: Islamic Jihad IN DAMASCUS claimed responsibility for the attack. So why does it surprise you that Israel blames Syria? If Syria would arrest the Islamic Jihad leaders in Damascus and hand them over to Israel or the PA they would show they indeed support peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as it claims it does. But instead Syria says Israel itself might have carried out the attack... I would say, if you like to lie, do it at least in a halfway credible way....

Posted by Ratna Pelle @ 02/28/2005 10:12 AM CST

Butros: It was evident that Siria was going to do something to cover Hariri affair and change the focus to Israel-Palestine conflict. I thought Hezbollah would shell Galilee but they choose something more indirect and nefarious such as kill teenagers. I come back to my mantra : Israel must sign the peace with palestinians to be able of handling Siria as the murderous and dangerous enemy that it is.

Posted by Aleph @ 02/28/2005 12:18 PM CST

hey can i get more information on your refugee camp...

Posted by simone kohlmeister @ 02/28/2005 03:02 PM CST

To Aleph and Ratna:
If Syria is as dangerous as we thought to believe than why has the border between the Golan Heights and Syria been relatively quiet for the past years? Why has Israel's own intelligence stated Syria is willing to reenter peace negotiations with Israel? We act as if Syria is a superpower with impressive military but I believe even Richard Pearl once Syria is weak. If Israel really cared about Syria why not during the Oslo years of the early ninties did Israel push as hard for Syria to arrest those leaders of militant groups. If Syria is so dangerous and unworthy of peace why would Hafez Alassaad even discuss peace and compromise with the US over the Golan Heights only to find Barak urge the US to go with his plan instead? Even Henry Seigman noted in Sharon and the Future of Palestine:
Ami Ayalon, the head of Israel's Shin Bet under Ehud Barak (and before that the chief of Israel's navy), warned Prime Minister Barak that the unrestrained growth of settlements under his administration and his neglect of the Palestinian peace process in favor of efforts to reach a Syrian agreement (which, we now know from President Clinton's and Dennis Ross's memoirs, failed because Ehud Barak reneged on the deal),
This "dangerous" Syria has tried to return to peace negotiations yet alas no one cares about their calls for peace. For Syria to commit a bombing after what happen in Lebenon with Harriri would be rather dumb and obvious. Israel claim it has evidence will then please make it public for us to see. Also Abbas claimed in an interveiw that he blamed but now does not blame Hezbollah at least not directly:
Abbas has called the perpetrators of the attack "terrorists" and hinted at Hezbollah's and Iran's involvement in the attack.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Israel has also blamed Damascus, saying leaders of Islamic Jihad in Syria ordered the attack. Syria has denied responsibility.

The Palestinians at first blamed Hezbollah, which has denied any role.

Abbas has only referred to a "third party" he believes is opposed to his peacemaking with Israel.

"There may be other parties who want to destabilize the situation," Abbas told the Independent.

Friday's suicide bombing shattered a truce agreed by Abbas and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at a February 8 summit in Egypt.
What happen to calling out Hezbollah name? Did the accusation change all of sudden?

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 02/28/2005 06:13 PM CST

This is funny I thought the Palestinians said Hezbollah did the attacks now one person denies they said that:

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- The Palestinian Authority Sunday criticized an Israeli decision to freeze plans to hand over West Bank towns because of a Tel Aviv suicide attack.

Palestinian Planning Minister Ghassan Khatib told Voice of Palestine Radio that Israel's suspension of transferring security control of Palestinian towns to the PA would not serve Israeli or Palestinian interests.


Khatib added Israeli reactions that were "punishable towards the Palestinian side prove from previous experience that they are more harmful."

Israel said it was suspending its plans to hand over security of Palestinian towns until the PA cracks down on Islamic Jihad. That organization has claimed responsibility for a Friday night suicide bomb attack on a Tel Aviv night club that killed four Israelis and injured dozens of other people.

Khatib also denied the PA had accused Lebanon's Hezbollah guerilla group of involvement in the attack, saying the media "should be careful not to take news related to the Palestinian side from Israeli sources."

Israel initially blamed Hezbollah for being behind the suicide attack, but later accused the Syrian-based Islamic Jihad leadership for responsibility, directly blaming Damascus.

Islamic Jihad in Gaza insisted it had no knowledge of the bombing and reaffirmed its commitment to a truce brokered by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas with opposition factions earlier this month.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 02/28/2005 11:20 PM CST

Butros : Siria es playing a very dangerous game trying to keep Lebanon as a client state and trying to force Israel to give back Golan using non-conventional weapons (terrorism). Siria must understand that the times have changed and it is no more posible to use armed pseudo-independent groups as tools of foreign policy. The EU will be not able of stoping the americans if Siria insists in embarking themselves in problems. All the countries have dreams but they must not follow them beyond reasonable specially by violent means. Lebanon people is increasingly hostile to Siria and it must be acknoeledged. Siria has tried to destroy Israel and Israel have not any reason to give back Golan. Siria must pursue its pacific insertion in international community (even without Lebanon and Golan) because Iran is not USSR and his umbrella is very thin.

Posted by Aleph @ 03/01/2005 05:17 PM CST

Ok, we all condemn the bombing. It is detrimental to both the Israelis and the Palestinians and I don't see why the Palestinians would officially sanction this form of resistance. That said, what about the continued land confiscation, brutal occupation and the economic strangulation that Israel inflicts on the Palestinian people. How many more farmers must be separated from their lands before Israel starts to realize that they are creating the next generation of resistance fighters. It is ironic that so many in the peace camp can question the Palestinians commitment to peace yet they are blinded to the true crimes that are committed on a daily basis by Israel. Five wonderful and sacred human beings died in the Tel Aviv bombings. It was a quick and undeserved death. But millions of Palestinians are dying a slow death at the hands of the Israeli military. Can any of you imagine living in your ancestral homeland and being subjected to check points, daily humiliation and land confiscation by people who recently arrived to the Holy Land? I will never forget the day an Israeli soldier, in broken Hebrew, called my cousin an "Arab Dog." Why can this Russian have the right to proclaim a son of the Holy Land a "dog"? Until we can all live as equal citizens in the ancient land of Palestine, the conflict will rage on. This was never just about land, it is about ethics, dignity and morality. You can't steal from people and expect them to love you. You cannot proclaim you want peace while building more settlements on lands that do not belong to you. You cannot wreck the infrastructure of a nation and then act surprised when they cannot stop a crazed bomber. Everyone in Palestine and Israel knows the solution. The West Bank, Gaza and E. Jerusalem will be Palestine and the remaining 77% of historical Palestine will be Israel. When the Israelis finally reach the conclusion that the Palestinians have compromised enough, will their be a real and genuine peace. Until then, it is just more of the same rhetoric.

Posted by Amin @ 03/01/2005 06:31 PM CST

To Butros Dahu: the border between the Golan Heights and Syria has been relativery quiet because Syria knows what are the consequences of attacking Israel directly, and therefore it's doing it in an indirect way. If Syria genuinely wants peace with Israel it could show this by dismantling the headquarters of Islamic Jihad and Hamas on it's territory and stop the antisemitic incitement (for example TV movies based on the Protocolls of the Elders of Zion). I think Israel would be willing to enter serious peace negotiations in that case. BTW Hezbollah, that was blamed for the attack by Abbas, is also supported by Syria.

To Amin: if the Palestinians had compromised enough in the past, as you claim, they would have had a state since 1947 on 45% of the territory of Mandatory Palestine. But Palestinians (and all other Arab states) rejected Jewish self determination out of hand, even if it would have been on the size of land of a postage stamp. Only after the first Intifada the PLO officially accepted Israel's right to exist and peace negotiations could start. During these negotiations however, both parties didn't recognize the other side really as Israel went on building settlements and the Palestinians went on calling terrorists 'hero's of the resistence' and demanded right of return of the millions of Palestinian refugees, which would mean an end to Israel being a Jewish state. These same mistakes seem to be made again now, as Ami Isseroff explains in the previous weblog.
You seem to deny any historic connection of the Jews to Palestine. There have been Jewish communities in Palestine throughout the centuries. They (I'm not Jewish BTW) had a connection to the land both physically and spritual, as is true for the Palestinians as well. If Palestinians keep denying this connection, and Israeli's keep denying the Palestinian connection, there can't be peace.
It is really very bad that an Israeli soldier called your cousin an 'Arab dog'. But try to see as well that some Palestinians call Jews 'the sons of apes and pigs', and accuse them of using blood of Christian children for making matzo's. Extremists on both sides did, and do, very bad things. What about the 'morality' of a suicide bomber? Is it better than the IDF razing a house or confiscate land?

Posted by Ratna Pelle @ 03/03/2005 10:56 AM CST

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