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Violence Challenges Middle East - 2003-05-01

Just one day after the United States and its international partners released the so-called road map for Middle East peace—violence in the Middle East flares, as Israel raids sites on both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Amy Katz has details on the attacks and on what’s next in the peace process

Israeli tanks and troops, backed by helicopters, raided a suburb of Gaza City Thursday, killing at least 10 people, including a two-year-old child. Several others were wounded. The Israeli military said 6 of its soldiers were also injured. The area is known to be a stronghold of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which along with another militant group claimed responsibility for the Wednesday suicide bombing in Tel Aviv – in which three Israelis were killed. A top Hamas bomb maker was among dead in the Thursday Gaza raid.

Israeli forces also entered Rafah, in Southern Gaza, raiding homes there. On the West Bank, Israeli troops entered a number of towns, including Bethlehem, arresting suspected militants and killing two people. The renewed violence came just hours after the official release of the internationally supported, so-called “road map” to peace in the Middle East.

After meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio in Madrid Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Israelis and Palestinians must to get beyond the violence, which he said must not be allowed to derail the implementation of the “road map."

“We can’t let these sorts of incidents immediately contaminate the 'road map' or contaminate the process that we are now involved in.”

Mr. Powell added that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, need to move forward on the path to peace with the help of the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East Quartet: the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. Judith Kipper, a Middle East analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, says the U.S. will have to play a central role in getting the plan implemented.

“It’s not going to be easy, because both Israelis and Palestinians are frightened, traumatized. Both are very manipulative. Both blame the other side for everything. And it’s going to take very active mediation and intervention, using the full persuasive powers of the United States, along with its Quartet partners, to get this implemented.”

Dr. Kipper also said the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the core of anti-Americanism in the region and resolving it would have a positive impact on the whole region.

“It will greatly diminish the anti-Americanism, and it will help the United States to do what is necessary to protect American interests in the region and to assist those governments that are ready to undertake economic reform and to have a process of evolutionary change.”

The “road map” for peace in the Middle East calls for a two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict; creating an independent Palestinian state, living side by side with Israel, in peace, by the end of 2005.