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Saudi Peace Efforts Appear to Gain Support

BY Admin  March 5, 2002 at 4:13 PM EDT

The recent spate of violence has put in jeopardy efforts to end the current cycle of retribution. Hopes were raised last week by a peace plan proposed by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, but many questions remain.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with President Bush in Washington this afternoon and Egyptian officials say he will press for a greater U.S. effort towards peace in the Middle East.

On Monday, Mubarak proposed a meeting between Arafat and Sharon, but Israel has said an end to the violence is a necessary precursor to any face-to-face meeting.

White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer echoed that demand.

“The president continues to think that it’s very hard to have peace be negotiated in an atmosphere of daily killings and violence. He does believe … Chairman Arafat does need to do more. That’s a consistent message,” he said.

Mubarak and other Arab leaders say it is unrealistic to expect a complete lull before diplomatic talks start. They are also asking Israel to let Arafat attend an Arab summit in Beirut, which is expected to debate the Saudi proposal.

On Monday, European Union foreign affairs chief, Javier Solana, said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed with him that Arafat should be allowed to attend the Beirut meeting.

However other U.S. officials said the United States did not have a position on whether Israel should let Arafat go to Beirut.

Violence continues

Despite the renewed peace efforts, violence continued in the region following some of the bloodiest days in recent years.

Israeli helicopters fired on Palestinian security headquarters in the West Bank Tuesday evening in response to a series of attacks on Israeli civilians across the country.

A gunman armed with an M-16 assault rifle opened fire at a popular Tel Aviv night spot early Tuesday morning, killing three Israelis and wounding 30.

The police said the shooter threw two grenades when he ran out of ammunition and then tried to stab people with a knife before police shot him dead.

A man claiming to be from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant Palestinian group linked to Palestinian leader Arafat’s Fatah group, telephoned reporters in Ramallah and claimed responsibility for the night spot attack.

Hours later, a suicide bomber killed himself and an Israeli passenger on a bus in the main station of a central Israeli town of Afula. Another 11 people were wounded, Israeli police said.

And to the south of Jerusalem, Palestinian gunmen fired on motorists traveling on the West Bank’s main north-south highway, killing one woman and injuring her husband.

To the north of Jerusalem, in the Arab neighborhood of Tzur Baher, a previously unknown Jewish group calling itself “Avengers of the Infants” planted several bombs at a high school. One of the bombs went off, injuring around 14 students and staff. Two more explosives were found and disarmed.

Both sides were still burying their dead from a bloody Monday that claimed the lives of at least 17 Palestinians and a deadly weekend in which 22 Israelis were killed. Many of those killed were children and civilians.

The rhetoric from boths sides has also escalated.

“If the Palestinians are not being beaten, there will be no negotiations,” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters at Parliament. “The aim is to increase the number of losses on the other side. Only after they’ve been battered will we be able to conduct talks.”

The head of the militant group Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, appeared on Arabic television, warning, “The Zionist enemy will learn the price of aggression against our people.”