KWAME HOLMAN: The violence in the Middle East continued unabated today. The apparent suicide car bomb that seriously injured a policeman at a West Jerusalem checkpoint was the sixth bombing in as many days.
Meanwhile, Israel continued to expand its West Bank offensive. Tanks and bulldozers rolled into more Palestinian towns and massed on the edge of Bethlehem. Israeli troops conducted house-to-house searches in the Palestinian town of Ramallah for a third day in what they called an effort to root out terrorist suspects. Israeli officials say they now have arrested more than 700 people. Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat remained confined to his Ramallah headquarters for a fourth day. He has been kept to his offices since Israeli soldiers stormed his compound last Friday morning.
That Israeli assault came just after one of the worst waves of Palestinian suicide attacks against Israeli civilians. Israeli officials have told the U.S. the Palestinian leader is being isolated but will not be harmed.
Arafat spoke from his confinement on Saturday, calling on the world to stop what he called Israel's assault on his people.
YASSER ARAFAT: I am appealing to the whole international world to stop this aggression against our people. This military escalation, day by night, this killing, they are declaring that they will continue their military escalation and they had more and more plans against our people.
KWAME HOLMAN: On the same day there were two more deadly attacks. In an Israeli town largely populated by Arabs, two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an Israeli police patrol, killing one Israeli before they were shot dead. And in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, a suicide bomber killed himself and wounded at least 29 others in a crowded cafe in the entertainment district.
At the United Nations over the weekend, the U.S. joined a unanimous Security Council in calling on Israel to withdraw its troops from all Palestinian territories. The resolution also urged both sides to move immediately to a meaningful cease-fire. President Bush did not repeat the call for Israel to withdraw. Speaking from his Texas ranch Saturday, he did say Arafat needed to do more to stop the violence.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I think Mr. Arafat could have done more three weeks ago and can do more today. I think that... I know I have been disappointed in his unwillingness to go 100% toward fighting terror. That includes using his security forces to help prevent suicide bombers from crossing certain lands, and that also means speaking out clearly in his native tongue. Israel will make the decisions necessary to defend herself.
My point to the Israeli government is, as you do so, keep in mind there must be an avenue toward a peaceful settlement. As you defend yourself-- and you have the right to do so-- please keep in mind and work with the region to develop a strategy that will end in a peaceful settlement.
KWAME HOLMAN: But yesterday the violence continued. In the northern Israeli port city of Haifa, 14 people died when a suicide bomber detonated his charge at a restaurant run by Israeli Arabs. More than 40 others were wounded. Just two hours later, another attack in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank wounded six people.
Since last Wednesday, at least 44 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks. Some 20 Palestinians have died over the same period. In a televised address to his nation last night, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared his country at war. He said Israel will continue to strike relentlessly at Palestinian terrorists.
ARIEL SHARON, Prime Minister, Israel (Translated): This terrorism is activated, directed, and initiated by one man, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat. Arafat is at the head of a coalition of terrorism. He operates a strategy of terrorism. The chairman of the Palestinian Authority is an enemy of Israel. He's the enemy of the entire free world. Everyone who seeks freedom, everyone who is brought up on the values of freedom and democracy must know that Arafat is an obstacle to peace in the MidEast. Arafat is a danger to the whole region.
KWAME HOLMAN: Today at a White House photo opportunity with New York officials, President Bush was asked if Arafat fit his definition of a terrorist.
REPORTER: Under your doctrine, a terrorist or someone who aids a terrorist is the equivalent of a terrorist. So what's keeping Chairman Arafat... what's keeping you from labeling chairman Arafat....
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, Chairman Arafat has agreed to a peace process. He's agreed to the Tenet plan. He's agreed to the Mitchell plan. He has negotiated with parties as to how to achieve peace. And of course our hope is that he accepts the Tenet plan. That's what....
REPORTER: So you believe Chairman Arafat needs to do much more. Do you believe that Prime Minister Sharon is doing all he can to foster peace in the region?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I think it's very important for the Prime Minister to keep a pathway to peace open. To understand that on the one hand Israel should protect herself, and on the other hand there ought to be a pathway, a capacity, to achieve a peaceful resolution to this issue. It's important for Israel to understand that.
KWAME HOLMAN: President Bush said U.S. Envoy Anthony Zinni would remain in the region. Meanwhile, anti-Israeli protests expanded in the Arab world today. In Egypt, demonstrators took to the streets for a fourth straight day with calls for their government to take a stronger stance against Israel. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse nearly 10,000 students. In Lebanon, demonstrators marched in Beirut and in southern Lebanon where hundreds took to the streets at a Palestinian refugee camp in support of Arafat. Police in Jordan used batons and water cannon to contain some 500 student demonstrators at the University of Jordan.