- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2002

Israeli officials say the lack of suicide attacks in the past three weeks means its renewed occupation of the West Bank is working.

But Palestinians say that, whatever the reason for the pause in the violence, the Israeli occupation will lead to more suicide bombings.

"Since we entered Palestinian territories and occupied Palestinian towns, there are no suicide bombers," said a senior Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"The ability of terror groups to enter our borders has been reduced significantly. Security is improved now, and there is no credit due to [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat. He has said nothing to his people to stop violence."

A U.S. State Department official said Mr. Arafat's recent Cabinet reforms are a sign of progress toward improved security over terrorism but agreed that the Israeli military moves are the primary reason for the lack of suicide attacks.

"I'm sure Israel's security operations contribute to a calming of the environment," said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "The question is ,how long it will be sustained? What happens when [military incursions] cease? Does the bombing start up again?"

The last Palestinian suicide bombings took place June 18 in Jerusalem when a Hamas bomber killed 19 on a bus and an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade bomber killed seven Israelis at a bus stop.

Three days later, the Israeli Cabinet approved the military takeover of most Palestinian cities, which remain under strict curfews except for three hours a day when people may shop for food.

"I don't know why [the suicide bombing] stopped, but I am glad it stopped, period, regardless of the reason," said the Washington representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hassan Abdel Rahman.

However he predicted that the Israeli occupation would push Palestinians to resume suicide bombings.

"Israeli occupation creates hopelessness; Israeli pressure on the Palestinian people causes continued hardships that are a cause of violence," he said in an interview yesterday.

Although suicide bombings have stopped and violence is reduced, Israeli forces shot and wounded two Palestinian news photographers in Jenin and an Israeli officer was fatally shot in the Gaza Strip yesterday.

Israeli military and intelligence forces controlling the West Bank have ripped up many of the militant networks behind the suicide bombings arresting many suspects, killing others and destroying bomb and arms factories and stockpiles.

But the hardships caused by the occupation create greater motivation among Palestinians for future attacks on Israeli civilians, said Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor at the University of Maryland.

He predicted that as soon as the Israelis ease up and even if they remain in place on the West Bank militants of Hamas and Islamic Jihad will resume their attacks and in even more-lethal ways.

"Planning and organization are disrupted [by the Israeli military incursion] but motivation is increased," he said. "It's wrong to think it worked. It may work in the short term and buy a few weeks. But this situation is not over."

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