- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2001

JERUSALEM Israeli forces began early this morning to pull back from positions in the West Bank city of Qalqilya, occupied three weeks ago at the start of an offensive against six Palestinian cities, security sources from both sides were reported as saying.
The withdrawal came hours after a Palestinian militant opened fire on a passenger bus at a busy Jerusalem intersection during afternoon rush hour yesterday, killing two Israelis and wounding at least 50.
Two Israeli tanks and troops on foot pulled out of Qalqilya's southern entrance where Palestinian security officers took up positions, Reuters quoted Palestinian security sources as saying. Soldiers also left two houses they occupied in the city's southern part.
The wide-scale Israeli offensive in the West Bank was provoked by the assassination of an Israeli Cabinet minister on Oct. 17 by Palestinian radicals, in retaliation for Israel's killing of their leader.
Israeli forces had withdrawn from positions inside Bethlehem and the nearby town of Beit Jala last week under pressure from the United States, which seeks to calm more than a year of Middle East violence to shore up support for its war on terrorism.
The bus shooting yesterday reinforced Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to stay home this week and deal with security matters rather than meet with President Bush in Washington.
The gunman leapt from behind bushes at French Hill junction in northern Jerusalem, aimed his M-16 rifle at bus No. 25 as it entered the city from the West Bank and squeezed off bursts of automatic gunfire.
"I saw him approach the bus and I quickly pushed my girls down below the seats. I looked right at him," said Mazal Mualem, who rode the bus with her two daughters.
Mrs. Mualem was not injured but at least eight of the passengers on her side of the bus sustained bullet wounds, some in the head. Five were listed in critical condition.
The Palestinian managed to empty an entire clip, about 30 bullets, before two border policemen fatally shot him. His body was still sprawled on the pavement 30 minutes after the attack.
Traffic came to a halt as rescue workers pulled bloody passengers from the bus. Nearly all the windows on one side were shot out. Blood trickled from the front steps of the bus onto the street.
Police later identified one of the dead passengers as Shoshana Ben-Ishai, a 16-year-old girl. The second victim was described as a middle-aged man.
The Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the attack in a leaflet issued in the West Bank and faxed to news organizations. The communique said the group was avenging Israel's targeted killings of Palestinian activists and promised that "rivers of blood will flow."
Islamic Jihad is the smaller of two fundamentalist militant groups operating in the West Bank and Gaza. Members of its armed wing have carried out suicide attacks on Israelis through more than a year of fighting.
On Friday, the United States placed both Islamic Jihad and the larger Hamas group on a list of 22 groups that would be subject to financial sanctions. The decision means that Washington will act to freeze or seize assets of the groups in banks all over the world.
Abdel Hakim Masalmeh, the Islamic Jihad's spokesman in the West Bank, described the U.S. decision as a surrendering to Israeli dictates.
"We do believe unquestionably that the American terrorism list is an Israeli list and nothing more than an Israeli directive," he said in a telephone interview from his home in Ramallah.
Mr. Masalmeh said the shooting attack was in part a reply to Washington's new list.
Israeli officials said they had hoped sanctions would be imposed not only on the groups but also against countries that harbored Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants.
"This is a positive development, but if countries that give these groups sanctuary were targeted with economic sanctions, that would put pressure on [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat to really crack down," said Mr. Sharon's media adviser, Raanan Gissin.
An Israeli government official who refused to be identified said the United States promised Israel it would begin penalizing countries in the next stage of its global battle against terrorism.
Many Arab states that support Washington's war in Afghanistan distinguish between Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group, which has called for a holy war against the United States, and Palestinian groups fighting Israel that also target civilians.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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