The year 2001 is ending on a relatively quiet note in Israel, as violence between Israel and Palestinians has dropped sharply. But Palestinian militants are vowing revenge for the death Sunday of six Palestinians.
Demonstrators led by Christian clerics prayed at the Bethlehem checkpoint after Israeli police prevented them from marching to the center of Jerusalem. Latin Patriarch Michel Sabah also joined the march to call for lifting the roadblocks around the West Bank town and ending Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.
Meanwhile, Palestinian militants promised to retaliate for the death of six Palestinians. Israel's army says the six men were preparing to carry out attacks against Israelis. Despite the killings, the general level of violence has dropped sharply in the past two weeks after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat made a public appeal for calm.
The army says 37 Israelis were killed earlier in the month, but only one has been killed since Mr. Arafat's televised call for an end to the violence. The number of non-fatal attacks has also dropped. Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon insists on seven days of absolute calm before he agrees to resume peace talks. His top aides say Mr. Arafat still is not doing enough to crack down on terrorism.
Palestinians are calling for US envoy Anthony Zinni to return to the region to try again to mediate a truce and resumption of peace talks. Back-to-back suicide bombings and Israeli military incursions into Palestinian-ruled towns in Gaza and the West Bank spoiled Mr. Zinni's first mission earlier in December.
A recent public opinion survey shows an overwhelming loss of faith in the peace process. Six out of 10 Israelis responding to the Tel Aviv University survey believe their personal security is threatened by the violence that has engulfed the region for the past 15 months.
But the survey also shows seven out of 10 Israelis feel more threatened by Israel's deteriorating economy, and they blame its sharp decline on the collapse of the peace process.