- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 2, 2002

JERUSALEM Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, defending Israel's killing of a top Hamas bombmaker held responsible for nearly 120 deaths, said yesterday that "there is no compromise with terror." Hamas extremists vowed revenge.
The threats came as a top Palestinian official said the United States will find no Palestinian willing to negotiate in place of Yasser Arafat, whom Israel holds ultimately responsible for all the attacks against its people because he has not taken serious steps to stop them.
President Bush's Middle East peace plan calls for replacing the Palestinian leader as a necessary first step to obtaining Washington's support for a provisional Palestinian state. On Sunday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell ruled out any immediate talks with Mr. Arafat, the Palestinian Authority president.
While many Palestinians are loyal to him, Mr. Arafat faces growing frustration from his people after 21 months of conflict with Israel and mounting economic hardships.
In Gaza City, about 4,000 Palestinians marched on Mr. Arafat's headquarters, complaining that he has been unable to ease their economic woes. Mr. Arafat has not been in Gaza since late last year. Now Israeli tanks are again trapping him in his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah.
Some protesters attached pita bread to their signs, a symbol of their struggle for daily bread. Up to now, Palestinians have blamed Israel for their difficulties, citing Israeli travel restrictions that have crippled the Palestinian economy.
In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Mr. Sharon gave strong backing to Mr. Bush's Middle East initiative of last week, saying that far-reaching reforms are needed to jump-start the peace process, and that Israel is coordinating closely with the United States on how to proceed.
"We have interest in starting a process in order to advance to a diplomatic stage," Mr. Sharon told a meeting of his Likud party members of parliament, adding: "I think that we need to be the ones who will take the initiative."
On the ground, Israeli troops remained entrenched in all but one of the main Palestinian towns in the West Bank.
On Sunday, Israeli special forces killed Mohaned Tahir, 26, a West Bank bombmaker for Hamas.
Israel holds Tahir responsible for a June 18 bus attack in Jerusalem that killed 19 Israelis, a June 2001 suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv disco that killed 21 others, most of them teenagers, and several other suicide attacks.
In the current round of fighting, which erupted in September 2000, Israel has killed dozens of Palestinians it accused of terrorism in what the Palestinians call a policy of assassination.
Mr. Sharon called Tahir's killing "a very important operation" of self-defense.
"There is no compromise with terror, and one should struggle against terror, and that is what we are doing," Mr. Sharon said.
Israeli authorities handed Tahir's body over to the Palestinians Monday, and a funeral was expected when there is a break in the curfew confining city's 140,000 residents.


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