- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

TEL AVIV Prime Minister Ariel Sharon issued a harsh rebuke to the United States yesterday, accusing it of appeasing Palestinians in an attempt to draw Arab states into a global anti-terror coalition.

"Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense," Mr. Sharon said at an evening news conference, drawing a comparison between President Bush's policies and efforts by European countries to appease Adolf Hitler before World War II.

"I call on the Western democracies, and primarily the leader of the free world, the United States: Do not repeat the dreadful mistakes of 1938, when enlightened European democracies decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for a convenient temporary solution," Mr. Sharon said. "Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. Israel will fight terrorism."

The prime minister's remarks came in the wake of yet another Palestinian strike against the Jewish state, when a gunman posing as an Israeli soldier went on a shooting rampage at a bus station in northern Israel, killing three persons.

The latest attack came just minutes after Israeli and Palestinian negotiators finished another round of truce talks.

Mr. Sharon's remarks were among the toughest in years directed by an Israeli leader at the United States, usually Israel's unwavering ally.

They appeared to reflect growing frustration here over Washington's unwillingness so far to lump violence by Palestinian groups with the terrorism perpetrated by Osama bin Laden and other radical Islamic organizations.

Washington has ratcheted up mediation efforts since the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, leading to a meeting last week between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat the first meeting in months.

Mr. Sharon had blocked the meeting on two previous occasions, insisting on at least two days of quiet in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a precondition, but that demand was effectively squelched as the result of American prodding.

Although the Sept. 26 meeting did produce a cease-fire agreement, violence on the ground never stopped.

Palestinians have borne the brunt of the casualties 21, compared with five Israelis, but Mr. Sharon said Palestinians had been the instigators of the violence.

That was the case yesterday in the northern town of Afula, where a Palestinian wearing an olive-colored Israeli army uniform got off a minibus at the central station and fired an automatic rifle into a crowd of Israelis.

One woman was killed instantly and two others died later of their wounds. Security guards and soldiers at the station shot the gunman dead. One of the soldiers said later that the man had been carrying an identity card Israel issues to Palestinians and appeared to be from the West Bank town of Jenin.

The attack came just minutes after senior Israeli and Palestinian officials completed an apparently fruitless meeting in an attempt to salvage the latest truce.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but Israel Radio said the gunman was probably a member of the Islamic militant Hamas group, which has flouted the recent cease-fire and previous ones.

Saeb Erekat, a member of Mr. Arafat's administration and a top peace negotiator with the Israelis, said Palestinian security branches were trying to prevent attacks on the Jewish state, but Israeli soldiers were provoking militants.

"President Arafat does not have a magic wand to change things in a minute," Mr. Erekat said.

In the West Bank town of Hebron later, a frequent flash point for Arab-Israeli violence, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man and wounded three children, Palestinian witnesses said.

An Israeli army spokesman said the Palestinians were killed in an exchange of fire.

The latest casualties brought the death toll in the fighting to some 850, most of them Palestinians.

In Bethlehem, a mysterious explosion critically wounded an activist in Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction, in what Palestinians called an Israeli assassination attempt. The activist, 21-year-old Rami Kamel, lost a hand and suffered shrapnel wounds throughout his body.

Israel has killed more than 60 Palestinian activists or militants in targeted attacks since the start of fighting in the West Bank and Gaza more than a year ago.

Last week's cease-fire called for Israel to halt all offensive action, but Israeli radio reported yesterday that the army would resume the track-and-kill policy in the aftermath of a deadly Palestinian attack on a Jewish settlement in Gaza Tuesday.

"The Cabinet has, therefore, instructed our security forces to take all the necessary measures to give full security for the citizens of Israel. We can rely on ourselves only," Mr. Sharon said last night.

In another sign of escalating tension, Jewish settlers who took a wrong turn on their way home in the West Bank yesterday strayed into the Palestinian village of Jaljily, near Nablus, took several people hostage and barricaded themselves in a home, fearing they would be attacked by village residents.

Soldiers summoned to the village freed the Palestinians and escorted the settlers home.

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