- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 19, 2001

Violence has again erupted between Israelis and Palestinians with disturbing force. Yesterday, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and five others in a shopping center in the town of Netanya, wounding 100 as well. Israeli forces responded in kind by blasting Palestinian territories with warplanes. A new and deadly cycle of violence has begun.
The incident that precipitated all this was Mondays Israeli shooting of five Palestinian policemen. The police post in Beitunia on the West Bank had been quiet all night all month, for that matter. Three policemen were just sitting down to a little tomato and onion stew and some sweet tea around the TV in the tin shack when Israeli gunmen fired from two different posts 100 and 200 yards away. Another officer was in the kitchen and two others were just outside. Minutes later, five Palestinian policemen lay dead or dying. The sixth and only survivor, according to a report in The Washington Post, was a 19-year-old named Lt. Ahmed Zakout. Israeli officials couldnt agree on why their forces fired. The one thing they did know was that all had been quiet early Monday when their forces opened fire from an Israeli military base and a nearby apartment building. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon insists his forces arent trying to "play Rambo," and that he had no reason to apologize for the deaths. There is, though, good reason for an investigation.
Two days later, in Netzarim in Gaza, 15-year-old Mohammed Salim wasnt as "lucky" as the Beitunia lieutenant. The school boy was shot dead just for passing an Israeli watchtower as he carried his school bag past a Jewish settlement. The same day, Israelis launched a missile strike on a Palestinian security compound and tanks rolled into two Palestinian-controlled areas of Gaza. The Israeli army says it will keep its military posts in the Palestinian territory "for varying time periods, according to needs," the Financial Times reported.
True, Israels sovereignty has been threatened. True, Israelis voted in Mr. Sharon because he would not barter away their security like his predecessor, Ehud Barak, did. True, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has given Israelis countless reasons to return fire and to bolster security around Israels borders. But enhanced security should not come at the cost of respect for human life.
One of the Palestinian policemen shot was a father of six. He had not even been allowed back to Gaza since the outbreak of violence in the fall to meet his daughter born just a few months ago, The Post report said. His fellow policeman at the border crossing was shot through the back of the head, and the bullet rammed through his teeth.
Mr. Sharon, whose military response has been swift, should investigate the circumstances surrounding the killing of Mohammed, the teen-age student, and must ensure the army investigation into the police shootings is thorough and just.


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