- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2001

JERUSALEM — Israel yesterday buried its dead from the worst Palestinian guerrilla attack in five years but refrained from retaliating amid some signs that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was serious about a cease-fire.
For a second day running, the level of violence was down sharply in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after Mr. Arafat, fearing a massive Israeli reprisal for a Tel Aviv nightclub bombing that killed 20 youths, announced he was ready for a truce.
But the threat of escalation still loomed, as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suggested Mr. Arafats announcement might have been a ruse and called on him to carry out three immediate steps to implement the cease-fire.
"I dont believe in statements. I believe only in actions, so I dont know if is a tactical step or some other kind of step," Mr. Sharon told reporters at a Tel Aviv hospital after visiting Israelis wounded in Fridays suicide bombing.
"The things that must be done by him immediately is one — to end incitement; two — to end acts of terror and violence; and three — to re-arrest all the many terrorists freed by Arafat and who stand behind terror activities today," he said.
A senior security official said Israel had been poised to launch a "very severe air strike" on Saturday but called it off when Mr. Arafat agreed to a cessation of violence. The official, who refused to be named, said he was sure Israel would go through with the retaliation plan because Mr. Arafat would not stick to the cease-fire.
"I am sure you will see it. It will happen," he said.
Many Israelis shared his skepticism while some Palestinians wondered whether Mr. Arafat had enough authority after eight months of bloodletting to rein in the militants.
Palestinian state-run media repeatedly broadcast Mr. Arafats instructions for a cessation of violence, and top security officers said they had received orders to prevent their men from shooting at Israelis.
But representatives of 14 Palestinian political factions — including the Islamic groups behind a string of suicide bombings in Israel — said after a meeting yesterday that they had a right to continue their eight-month uprising against Israel.
"Our people have a right to defend themselves against aggression, occupation and [Jewish] settlements, and to pursue the popular [uprising] as a legitimate means against the continuing occupation of our land and to achieve our national rights," the factions said in a joint statement.
Among Mr. Arafats security groups, officials said the order was to prevent shootings and bombings inside Israel.
But there was no mention of any ban on attacks against Jewish settlers or soldiers in parts of the West Bank and Gaza still held by Israel. Palestinians have said in the past such attacks represent legitimate resistance to occupation.
At least 450 Palestinians and 109 Israelis have been killed in the fighting that erupted last September.
Israel held funerals for 10 of the 20 casualties teen revelers who were waiting to enter the beachfront dance club in Tel Aviv when the bomber blew himself up. Some mourners screamed and others wept quietly at the funerals for the dead, many of them Russian immigrants.
"I want to take her home," screamed the mother of Ania Kotchkov, 16, as a rabbi chanted burial prayers near Tel Aviv.
At the same cemetery, the bodies of two sisters killed in the attack were lowered into graves inches apart.
Friends and family of teen-agers Yelena and Yulia Nelimov circled around as men hastened forward with shovels to fill the graves with red soil. Wreaths of carnations and daisies were piled high. Candles pressed into the dirt flickered in the breeze.
A rabbi murmuring prayers had led the mourners to the grave, walking with the bodies wheeled on stretchers. Blue and white Israeli flags draping their corpses outlined their bodies.
"They came to Israel together for security. Now they are going to heaven," said Education Minister Limor Livnat.
Many Israelis who attended the funerals called on the government to retaliate. Despite the pressure, the Israeli security official said the army was still adhering to the defensive posture Mr. Sharon imposed unilaterally last month, which meant soldiers were firing only in life-threatening situations and initiated actions were being avoided.
But Palestinians accused Israel of trying to kill an Islamic Jihad activist in the West Bank town of Tulkarm by detonating a bomb near his car yesterday and instigating other actions.


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