- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

JERUSALEM Israeli troops killed six Palestinians in a broad assault on northern Gaza yesterday, hours after a deadly Palestinian attack on a settlement in the area.
The burst of violence, just eight days after a cease-fire was declared, prompted diplomats and analysts here to conclude that no amount of American pressure could bring the two sides to honor a truce.
Israeli troops wrecked homes and police stations in Beit Lahya in the Gaza Strip, clashing with Palestinian gunmen and firing tank shells that killed four policemen and two civilians.
[In Washington, a State Department official declared that "the Palestinian Authority must take immediate, sustained and effective steps to pre-empt violence and shooting attacks and arrest those responsible for planning and conducting acts of violence and terror."
["Pre-emptive action to prevent attacks such as that which occurred at Alei Sinai are essential to maintaining calm and restoring trust and confidence between the parties," the official said. Alei Sinai is the Jewish settlement attacked by Palestinian radicals Tuesday.
[Washington welcomed Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's condemnation of the attack on the settlement, but wanted to see action as well as words, the official said.]
The latest casualties brought to 20 the number of Palestinians killed since the two sides, with vigorous American prodding, pledged at a high-level meeting eight days ago to commence with a cease-fire.
Palestinians have killed two Israelis in that period, detonated a car bomb in Jerusalem and staged several shooting attacks.
The violence, which has alternately simmered and boiled since the Sept. 11 hijack attacks on the United States, overflowed yesterday at several confrontation points.
In the West Bank town of Hebron, Palestinian snipers fired into a crowd of Jewish worshippers at the city's disputed religious shrine, wounding two women, one of them seriously.
On Israel's northern frontier, Lebanese guerrillas fired missiles and mortars at army positions for the first time in months, wounding no one but putting soldiers along the border on high alert.
"There is a feeling that one step up is almost invariably followed by two steps back," said one Western diplomat, describing his recent peace efforts.
American mediation here has surged in the weeks since the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, at least in part because Washington feels Israeli-Palestinian fighting will hinder its ability to recruit Arab countries for its coalition against global terrorism.
The deeper involvement included an endorsement of Palestinian independence by President Bush who said this week that that United States had always viewed a Palestinian state as part of the solution to trouble in the Middle East.
The extra attention appeared to pay off last week as Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Mr. Arafat agreed at their first meeting in months on the details of a cease-fire.
But the truce has proved even less effective than five previous ones. With violence never halting for more than a few hours, Israel has balked at pulling troops back from Palestinian areas and easing its crippling border closures.
After more than a year of fighting, few Israelis and Palestinians had expected anything different.
"The hatred is so deep at this point, that something as superficial as another meeting between Peres and Arafat had no chance of making a big impact," said political scientist Gerald Steinberg of Israel's Bar-Illan University.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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