- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2001

JERUSALEM — Israeli-Palestinian violence resumed at full throttle yesterday, with the familiar shootings and bombings all but shattering an American-sponsored truce in the region.
Palestinians killed a 41-year-old Israeli man at a vegetable market on the border between Israel and the West Bank and detonated two car bombs near Tel-Aviv, a day after Israel killed three militants in the West Bank with a missile strike on their car.
Hours after the shooting attack, Palestinian security officials reported that Israeli troops killed a man as he entered his village in the West Bank.
U.S. officials convened top security officers from both sides last night in a frantic bid to contain the fighting, but Israeli and Palestinian leaders stoked the violence with bitter rhetoric.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, speaking to his Likud party members in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, likened Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to terrorist Osama bin Laden and said there was no point engaging him in diplomacy.
"I asked the Americans, 'Would you talk to bin Laden?'… Arafat is our bin Laden," Mr. Sharon said, referring to talks he held with President Bush in Washington last week.
Mr. Arafat, repeating his call for international intervention, said Israel had committed "an ugly criminal act" by killing three Palestinian militants near the town of Jenin Sunday.
On the sidelines, Western diplomats warned that the chances of preserving a month-long cease-fire — punctuated from the start by sporadic killings — were fading fast.
"The situation is very difficult. The last events of the last couple of days show how fragile the cease-fire is," Terje Larsen, the United Nations Middle East envoy, told reporters in Gaza on the West Bank.
The latest Israeli casualty in the spiraling violence was Aharon Abidyan from northern Israel, who entered an Arab village just on the Israeli side of the border to shop for vegetables.
Palestinian militants fatally shot Mr. Abidyan, apparently using his own gun to kill him, police said. Vendors at the outdoor market fled and Israeli police later shut it down.
Earlier yesterday, two car bombs exploded 10 minutes apart in the town of Yehud, near Israel's main international airport. Four persons were treated for shock.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Palestinian faction that had been largely dormant until the fighting erupted last September, claimed responsibility for the bombings and said they were meant to avenge the killing of five militants Sunday — three in the helicopter attack and two by Israeli soldiers in a separate incident.
But Israeli security officials said the bombings had to have been planned long before Sunday's helicopter strike.
The air strike killed a top member of the Islamic Jihad, Mohammad Bsharat, and two other militants. Israeli radio said Mr. Bsharat was behind a string of shooting and bombing attacks on Israelis and was high on Israel's wanted list.
The resumption of the targeted killings — which Palestinians call assassinations — was more evidence that the cease-fire that began unofficially on June 2 and was formalized 11 days later in a spurt of mediation by CIA chief George Tenet was collapsing.
Mr. Sharon disclosed yesterday that his government decided in a meeting 11 days ago to reactivate its aggressive policy after Mr. Arafat refused to arrest 35 fugitives whose names appeared on a list Israel gave the Palestinians.
Two days after that meeting, an Islamic militant, Osama Jawabreh, was killed in the West Bank town of Nablus when a public phone he was using exploded. An Israeli security source said both Mr. Jawabreh and Mr. Bsharat appeared on the list.
Meeting in Washington with Israeli military Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell pressed Israel to act with restraint, but Gen. Mofaz emerged defiant.

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