- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

A wave of Palestinian attacks that killed 13 persons in 24 hours is forcing politicians and scholars to the conclusion that the militants can't be stopped even after the military had reoccupied West Bank towns and villages for more than a month.
"We don't a have a way to hermetically seal the country," said Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit, a member of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud party, in an interview on public television. "We need to keep fighting and remain determined."
In an effort to make it more difficult for Palestinians to elude military checkpoints and slip across the West Bank's porous border, Israel prohibited all Palestinian vehicle traffic yesterday but made exceptions for humanitarian considerations.
At the same time, air force helicopters were sent to the Gaza Strip to strike at factories suspected of producing explosives and weapons.
With Israel still reeling from the commuter-bus bombing in northern Israel that killed nine persons Sunday, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer spoke of plans to expand closures of Palestinian areas.
But many Israelis are questioning how much more pressure the army can put on the West Bank and whether it will work.
"We need to tell the public in a sober manner there is no 100 percent solution," Police Chief Shlomo Aharonishki said yesterday.
As if to underline that comment, Israel radio and television reported that chance had prevented another attack targeting Israeli civilians.
An explosive went off prematurely near the Israeli-Arab town of Um El-Fahm after a Palestinian militant flagged down a ride from someone the police believe was an unsuspecting driver. Television footage showed a black compact car with its ceiling blown away.
Early in the morning, a shooting attack on car traveling on a West Bank road left two Israeli settlers dead. Two children were also in the car, and one of them was injured.
The increase in violence came as Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. Mr. Peres said the Egyptian president criticized Mr. Sharon for having no plan to end the violence, Reuters news agency reported.
For the first time since Israel began its military offensive in April, politicians on both sides of the political spectrum are acknowledging that the constant curfews and closures in Palestinian cities cannot eradicate the terror attacks.
Tougher measures can only reduce the attacks, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, a member of the hard-line Likud party, said yesterday
Israel's army doesn't have the manpower to seal West Bank towns and the dozens of villages that provide cover for militants before they slip into Israel, scholars said.
"It's like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon," said Martin Van Creveld, a professor of military history at Hebrew University. "They are striking about blindly, hoping against hope that something will change."
The military has arrested dozens of would-be suicide bombers before they carried out their attacks, but that is little comfort to Israelis since the latest violence.
The debate is focusing on whether to pursue a war of attrition, push a diplomatic initiative intended to encourage a cease-fire or withdraw to a unilaterally determined security border.

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