U.S. Envoys Head to Mideast As Violence Continues
The Palestinian gunman infiltrated an Orthodox Jewish school near the West Bank town of Nablus and began firing on students. According to rescue workers three were killed and another wounded before security forces shot and killed the gunman.
“We found one wounded student who had been hit by a number of bullets in the chest. An army doctor pronounced him dead,” Hezi Katoa, a rescue service worker, told Israeli Radio. “We heard about two other students wounded in the school compound. When we got there we found two of them lying behind the building with bullet wounds all over their bodies. All our efforts to revive them failed.”
The shooting came just hours after the Israeli army moved into the war-ravaged town of Jenin. During the raid, heavy gunfire could be heard throughout the town. Reportedly one Palestinian man was killed by Israeli fire as troops took a leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas into custody.
Israeli military officials were quick to tell reporters the mission was not a general incursion into Palestinian areas, like those conducted during the six-week “Defensive Shield” that ended earlier this month.
“We go into specific places according to intelligence information,” Deputy Defense Minister Dalia Rabin-Pelossof told Israel Army Radio. “At this point, we’re not involved in Operation Defensive Shield No. 2.”
The Israeli move followed a deadly suicide bombing at a suburban ice cream parlor Monday evening. The attack, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petach Tikvah, killed the male attacker and the two Israelis.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militant offshoot of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah Movement, claimed responsibility for the huge blast that seriously injured five others, including a second toddler.
Arafat’s Palestinian Authority quickly condemned the attack, saying it “gives the Israeli occupation army excuses to continue its aggression, killing our people and destroying our national goal.”
President Bush also denounced the bombing, the fifth in little more than a week, and called on the Palestinian Authority to do a better job cracking down on the militants.
“There are people who don’t want peace and therefore are willing to kill,” the president said. “All of us, all of us involved in the process — Arab nations, the Palestinians, Americans, Europeans, Israelis — must do everything we can to stop terrorist action.”
In Washington, the State Department said the U.S. would dispatch top envoys to discuss the situation and prospects for future peace talks, but refused to set any deadline for when progress might be achieved.
Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East William Burns is set to depart Tuesday evening for the region and Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet is likely to arrive this weekend for meetings.
Secretary of State Colin Powell stressed Tuesday that the talks would be general in nature.
“We are not at this point prepared to [put on the] table an American plan with specific deadlines,” Powell said from Rome. “When we get reports back from Mr. Tenet and Ambassador Burns and we consult with a lot of other people we will start to integrate all this information and see what next steps should be taken.”