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Israeli Attack 'Excessive' - US - 2001-07-31

The Bush administration is using unusually blunt language in expressing alarm over an Israeli attack on Palestinians that left at least eight people dead. U.S. officials call it a new and dangerous escalation in the 10 months of Arab-Israeli violence.

Rarely does an American administration criticize one side more than the other in the Middle East. But the Israeli attack Tuesday in the West Bank town of Nablus that included the deaths of two innocent civilians drew an unusually blunt response from State Department Spokesman Charles Hunter, who called the Israeli action "excessive. This attack represents an escalation, is highly provocative, and makes efforts to restore calm much more difficult," said the spokesman.

Two boys under the age of ten were among those killed when Israeli helicopters fired into offices of the terrorist group Hamas in retaliation, Israel says, for previous terrorist attacks by Arabs. It was the deadliest action since Hamas claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub June 1 which left 21 Israelis dead.

President Bush is calling on both sides to break the cycle of violence as U.S. officials warn of what they call "disaster" if both sides do not pull back from the brink.