- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

The FBI made the chilling news official on Monday: The problem of suicide bombers walking into public places like restaurants and shopping malls and blowing themselves up, a mode of terrorism used with devastating effect against Israel during the past 20 months, will be coming to America. And, in a new twist, the FBI also warned landlords and tenants across the United States to be on alert for the possibility that terrorists may rent apartment units and wire them with explosives.

"I think we will see that in the future. I think it's inevitable," FBI Director Robert Mueller said of the possibility of "walk-in" suicide attacks on American soil. "I wish I could be more optimistic." Mr. Mueller added that Americans will experience another terrorist attack. "We will not be able to stop it," he said. "It's something we all live with." He did not elaborate on what form such an attack would take. But, if the Israeli experience is any indication, we are looking at a very disturbing development.

Since Sept. 29, 2000, approximately 490 Israelis have died as a result of Palestinian terrorist attacks, the most lethal form of which have been suicide bombings, which have occurred on public buses and at discotheques, hotels, produce markets, shopping malls and military and police checkpoints. Roughly 80 such bombings have occurred during this period, a rate of one every eight days or so. Most of the attacks have been carried out by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a terrorist group affiliated with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah branch of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), often in conjunction with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which receive extensive backing from Iran and Syria. Among the most deadly was the March 27 suicide bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya during a Passover seder, which killed 29.

Just two days after that bombing, Israel launched a large-scale military offensive against terrorist bases throughout the West Bank. The offensive resulted in the killing or capture of hundreds of wanted terrorists, did considerable damage to the suicide attack networks operating out of cities like Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah and Bethlehem, and caused a large reduction in the number of "successful" suicide bombings. Nonetheless, the anti-terror campaign has a long way to go. For one thing, Israel has yet to launch a much-anticipated offensive against the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, which was responsible for the May 7 bombing that killed 16 persons in a pool hall in Rishon Letzion. And Israelis are reminded every day of the continuing terrorist threat. On Monday, for example, security forces arrested a 26-year-old Palestinian woman in Tulkarm who was allegedly planning to carry out another suicide bombing in Israel. That same day, security forces prevented a would-be suicide bomber from boarding a bus near Afula.

Is this what is in store for Americans? If so, a declaration of helplessness from the FBI director hardly seems an adequate response.


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