- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

Since last Wednesday, at least 18 persons have been killed and more than 150 wounded in a new wave of Palestinian bombings and shootings directed at Israeli civilian targets. The deadliest attack occurred Sunday, when at least nine persons were killed and nearly 50 wounded in the bombing of a bus near Safed, in northern Israel. Last Wednesday, a terrorist detonated a bomb in the cafeteria at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, killing at least seven persons five of them visiting Americans and wounding 86 more. The terrorist group Hamas claimed responsibility for both of the bombings.
Both Hamas and Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA), along with some in the Western media, have attempted to suggest that the attacks were "revenge" for Israel's July 23 assassination of Salah Shehadeh, the head of Hamas' military wing, which is responsible for coordinating attacks against Israel. Shehadeh and 14 other persons, apparently all of them civilians, died when an Israeli warplane bombed his apartment building in Gaza. The civilian deaths have, quite properly, triggered an intense debate inside Israel over the planning of the air strike which killed Shehadeh. Although senior government officials say Israeli commandos repeatedly passed up earlier opportunities to kill Shehadeh for fear of killing innocent civilians, many Israelis remain deeply troubled by the fact that innocent civilians perished along with this senior terrorist leader.
But the suggestion that atrocities such as the bombing at Hebrew University were meant to "avenge" Shehadeh's death is a distortion of reality: It suggests that, were Israel to have spared Shehadeh's life, Hamas would have stopped killing Israelis.
Such assertions stretch credulity to the breaking point. The reality is that, ever since it was founded in December 1987, Hamas has been violently opposed to the existence of Israel in any form. Since carrying out its first bombings of Israeli buses in April 1994 (less than seven months after Mr. Arafat signed a peace treaty with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and during a period when Israel was preparing to cede large chunks of the West Bank to the PA), Hamas has killed or maimed hundreds of Israelis in suicide attacks.
As for Shehadeh, over the past two years, the Israeli government made repeated requests that the PA act to prevent him from spearheading Hamas' efforts to manufacture rockets which would enable it to target the Israeli heartland. But the PA did nothing to stop him. In fact, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a terrorist faction affiliated with Mr. Arafat's Fatah movement, worked with Shehadeh in coordinating attacks against Israel.
Moreover, Israeli military sources say that, at the time of his death, Shehadeh was planning a deadly new series of "mega-terrorist" attacks in six Israeli cities. Had he succeeded, he would have killed hundreds of people, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said.
In a May interview with Islam Online, Shehadeh spoke with pride about his efforts to recruit suicide bombers to attack Israel. He suggested that participating in such attacks is a sign of good mental health, and praised any Palestinian willing to "sacrifice … his soul" in order to "bring happiness" and remove "torment and distress" from fellow Muslims by carrying out suicide attacks.
The reality is that, whether Shehadeh lived or died, Hamas would have done its utmost to visit more carnage upon innocent Israelis.

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