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Critical Moment

June 4, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT

MARGARET WARNER: There were more funerals today in Israel. For three days friends and relatives have been mourning 20 Israelis who were killed in a suicide bomb blast in Tel Aviv Friday night. Most of the victims were teenagers, many of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The blast at a popular nightclub rocked Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city, and until recently largely immune from the violence that’s marked the nine-month-old Arab uprising. The uprising or Intifada has claimed the lives of at least 450 Palestinians and 110 Israelis. The radical Islamic group Hamas claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack. After an emergency meeting called Saturday by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Israeli cabinet issued a statement holding Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat responsible for the Friday night blast. Amid reports that the Israelis were preparing a massive retaliatory strike against the Palestinian Authority, Arafat called a truce.

YASSER ARAFAT (Translated): I repeat our condemnation of this tragic operation in Tel Aviv against civilians. We will now exert our utmost efforts to stop the bloodshed of our people and Israeli people and to do all that is needed to achieve the immediate and unconditional real and effective cease-fire.

MARGARET WARNER: But in the streets of Tel Aviv scores of Israelis demanded revenge. Demonstrators outside a Muslim mosque chanted “Death to Arabs.” For now, Sharon has resisted those pressures. Two weeks ago he declared his own cease-fire, but one of his advisers suggested Arafat’s words were not enough.

RAANAN GISSIN: I must say that we are tired and sick of his declarations. We are still waiting for some of his actions, some of his steps that he should take in order to stop the violence, the terror, and the incitement that he instigated eight months ago.

MARGARET WARNER: In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell urged Arafat to make his cease-fire pledge stick.

COLIN POWELL: He has the moral authority as the leader of the Palestinians. People look to him for leadership, and if he uses that authority to tell people that this is not the way to go about finding a political solution to our problems; that will carry great weight.

MARGARET WARNER: Powell had these words for Sharon.

COLIN POWELL: He’s under enormous pressure, and I’m glad that so far he is pacing the response, and he is giving the other side, the Palestinian side, time to act on what they said they were going to do, and so I would encourage him to keep having this measured response.

MARGARET WARNER: Today in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers erected new roadblocks and closed border crossings in Palestinian towns. Many residents expressed their anger.

RESIDENT (Translated ): What is the meaning of a cease-fire if we are still being suffocated and attacked by the Israeli side?

RESIDENT ( Translated ): We can’t feel anything anymore. Our nerves have been drained. We are being treated like animals.

MARGARET WARNER: Shooting incidents have dropped off dramatically since Arafat called his truce, but after today’s gunfight in the Gaza Strip, each side blamed the other for instigating the violence.