Israel keeps curfew active after 11 killed in two days

Plans to ease movement restrictions are shelved while Egypt's Foreign Minister tells Bush to rethink proposals for peace deal
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Israeli government said yesterday that it had shelved plans to ease a 24-hour curfew on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in West Bank towns because of two Palestinian militant attacks in as many days, which have killed at least 11 people. It also said it was dropping plans to hold meetings with moderate Palestinian leaders.

The Israeli government said yesterday that it had shelved plans to ease a 24-hour curfew on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in West Bank towns because of two Palestinian militant attacks in as many days, which have killed at least 11 people. It also said it was dropping plans to hold meetings with moderate Palestinian leaders.

A double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on Wednesday killed three people, as well as two bombers. Israeli police said yesterday that two of the dead were foreign workers. Twenty-five of the wounded were in hospital, four of them reported to be in serious condition.

The attack came a day after eight settlers were killed when their bus was ambushed by Palestinian gunmen. The two attacks shattered more than three weeks of calm, in which there were no serious attacks and no Israeli civilians killed.

The news that Israel's initial response is not to ease existing restrictions on Palestinians shows how few options appear to be left to Ariel Sharon's government. The Israeli army has already reoccupied seven of the eight biggest West Bank towns, and is in full control of them.

The Israeli authorities argue the curfew is the only way to protect Israel from militant attacks – even though those responsible for the attacks this week got through.

The office of the Defence minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, said yesterday that plans to ease the curfew had been drawn up but had been put on hold because of the attacks. The Israeli army lifted the curfew for 12 hours in four of the seven West Bank towns where it is in force yesterday – a longer break than has generally been the case.

In Washington, where three Arab ministers met President Bush yesterday, Egypt's Foreign minister, Ahmed Maher, said the US needed to rethink its plans for the Middle East and accept that Yasser Arafat was the only Palestinian leader capable of signing a peace deal with Israel. The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia were pushing their own proposals for a Middle East settlement. One of the ideas involves having Arab security experts train a restructured Palestinian security force but only once Israeli forces withdraw from Palestinian territories.

Mr Maher said Mr Bush's speech last month on the Middle East was unbalanced. "It seemed to us that in the speech everything the Palestinians have to do is upfront and everything the Israelis have to do is delayed and is conditional on the will of the Israeli government. I don't think this is a good formula," said Mr Maher, who called on Mr Bush to provide a "road map" for reaching the goal of separate Israeli and Palestinian states.

"What we want to do is to reshuffle the vision that has been expressed by the American government and to create links between the obligations of both sides."

* Five Israelis have been arrested on suspicion of selling ammunition to Palestinian militants. Four of those arrested live in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and two of them are from Adora, where a five-year-old girl was shot dead in an attack by militants earlier this year.

Comments