- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

Early Tuesday morning, 19 Israelis, most of them teen-agers headed to school and workers headed to their offices, got aboard one of the busiest bus lines in the Jerusalem area heading for downtown. They didn't make it to their destinations alive. Shortly before 8 a.m., Mohammed al-Ghoul, a law student from a Nablus-area refugee camp who had just boarded the vehicle, detonated a bomb packed with nails. Along with Ghoul, at least 19 Israelis died and 70 more were wounded in the bombing. "We tell the Zionists to prepare your coffins, dig your graves, because your dead will be in the hundreds," Hamas said in a statement announcing it had carried out the bloodbath. The group also released a videotape explaining the "best" places on an Israeli bus to detonate a bomb in order to achieve the maximum number of casualties.
Then, shortly after 7 last night, another suicide bomber blew himself up with a group of people waiting at a bus stop in Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood. In addition to the bomber, at least six people were killed in the attack, this one carried out by the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a terrorist group affiliated with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization. It was the 71st suicide attack carried out against Israel in the past 21 months by Palestinian terrorist groups. At least 182 people, including suicide bombers, have died in the 21 such attacks directed against Israel this year.
Clearly, Operation Defensive Shield, the military campaign Israel launched March 29 against the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure that Mr. Arafat permitted to flourish in the West Bank, was successful in temporarily diminishing the suicide bombers' ability to target Israel. In March, for example, there were eight such attacks, and in April, by comparison there were two. In May, Israel experienced four such attacks, and there have been five so far this month. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon understands all too well that the current situation is intolerable, and that the policy Israel has pursued since early last month one that largely relies upon military raids on terrorist training centers and bomb factories located in the West Bank has become inadequate to the task at hand: denying terrorists the ability to enter Israeli cities and murder people at will.
So, Mr. Sharon has embarked on a new policy of gradually recapturing areas of the West Bank adjacent to terrorist bases until the terror stops. Yesterday, for example, Israeli troops set up an encampment near Jenin, home to some of the most violent Palestinian groups, which have reconstituted themselves since Operation Defensive Shield concluded. "The president understands Israel's right to self-defense, particularly in the wake of an attack of this severity," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in response to the Israeli move.
That's a start, but Mr. Bush needs to go further. That means making it unmistakably clear to Mr. Sharon and our Arab "allies" that Washington will not hamper Israel's ability to take action, just as America did in Afghanistan, to protect its citizens from suicide attacks.


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