- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

JERUSALEM — President Bush called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday to press for efforts to end the violence and to express condolences over recent Palestinian suicide bomb attacks.
Mr. Bush called Mr. Sharon to express sorrow over two bloody suicide bombings by Palestinian militants in the past week and to press for efforts to stop the fighting, said White House spokesman Sean McCormack, with the president in Texas.
"Both leaders agreed on the need to avoid escalating the situation in the region," Mr. McCormack said.
Mr. Sharon told Mr. Bush that Israel has no intention of escalating the conflict into a Mideast war, according to a statement from Mr. Sharon's office.
However, the statement said Mr. Sharon also told Mr. Bush that Israel would continue to take steps to protect its citizens, including "preventive action against those who are planning to carry out terror acts against Israel," a reference to Israel's much-criticized policy of targeting and killing suspected Palestinian militants.
An Egyptian official in Washington said yesterday American diplomacy has failed to stop the violence and he urged the United States to send a monitoring force to try to revive a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The argument that the situation should be left to the parties has failed," said Osama Baz, the Arab country's top foreign policy official, adding that extremism was on the rise and posing a threat throughout the region.
Israeli and Palestinian authorities "have proved themselves incapable of moving by themselves toward peace," President Hosni Mubarak's national security adviser said.
Since the conflict erupted on Sept. 28, 569 persons have been killed on the Palestinian side and 152 persons have been killed on the Israeli side.
Meanwhile, an Israeli official accused Iran and Iraq of playing roles in the conflict. Danny Ayalon, an adviser to Mr. Sharon, told reporters that Iraq is trying to take an active part on the Palestinian side and Iranians were filming Palestinian attacks against Israelis. The Iran-backed Hezbollah often filmed its bombs going off near Israeli army vehicles in south Lebanon before Israel's pullout last year.
An Israeli military report quoted by an Israeli newspaper yesterday predicted the conflict would continue for another five years. The report also warned it could escalate into a regional war, according to the Ha'aretz daily.
Asked about the forecast, Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said it was "nonsense," but then acknowledged the conflict with the Palestinians "is a problem that doesn't seem to have a solution in the foreseeable future." He was speaking on Israel radio.
In Gaza, a Palestinian arrested on suspicion of collaborating with Israel died while being questioned by Palestinian interrogators, an official said.
Suleiman Abu Amra, 38, was arrested this week and died Wednesday, said a police officer, requesting anonymity.
Mr. Abu Amra's family refused to bury him until the interrogators are punished. Mr. Abu Amra was the 25th person to die in a Palestinian jail since the authority was established in 1994, said Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid.
Also yesterday, a Palestinian taxi driver was killed when his vehicle crashed on a West Bank road after Israelis threw a rock at him, Palestinians said.
The taxi incident took place near the Jewish settlement of Shilo, south of the Palestinian city of Nablus. Witnesses said a car with Israeli license plates stopped and a person inside threw a rock at the Palestinian taxi, hitting the driver, Kamal Musalem, 52, from the village of Talfit, in the head.
There have been several incidents involving Israeli rock-throwing at Palestinian vehicles in the area. Palestinian gunmen have often targeted Israeli settlers, opening fire on their cars. More than 30 settlers have been killed.
The violence continued at a Nablus hospital after Mr. Musalem's body was brought there. An old feud erupted when his relatives confronted another family from their village, and both sides opened fire.
Four persons were killed, including Tayal Furej, the director of the Palestinian religious affairs ministry.

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