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Violence Accompanies Bush Visit

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Author Topic: Violence Accompanies Bush Visit  (Read 37 times)
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« on: January 09, 2008, 06:41:16 pm »

                                              Violence accompanies Bush visit

Associated Press Writer
Wed Jan 9, 2008
JERUSALEM - The Israeli military fired at Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday, killing three people, after a rocket hit a house in a battered Israeli border town just as President Bush began his Mideast peace mission.
Palestinians fired at least 13 rockets and mortar shells from Gaza at Israel, and at least eight exploded in Israel, police said. Two hit houses in Sderot, just half a mile from the Gaza border fence, a frequent target of the crude, homemade Gaza projectiles.

The Israeli military hit back after both rocket strikes in the town. Before Bush arrived, the military said it targeted three militants who fired rockets at Israel, and Palestinian medics said one was killed. Another six people were wounded.

One rocket hit the home of Sderot resident Danny Dahan. Speaking from the hospital where he was treated for shock, he told Army Radio he had several close calls in recent years. In the Wednesday attack, the rocket tore through the ceiling and landed on his son's bed.

"Rockets have been raining on this town for years and no one is doing anything," a sobbing Dahan told the radio. He did not suffer serious injuries.

Just after Bush arrived in Israel at midday, another rocket exploded in Sderot, hitting a house. No one was hurt, police said.

The military hit back with ground fire, aiming for the rocket squad. Palestinian hospital officials said two civilians were killed, a woman and a young man. Four people were wounded.

Palestinian militants have been firing rockets and mortars at Israel nearly every day for months. The small, primitive projectiles cause little damage and few casualties, but they have badly disrupted life in Israeli towns and villages around Gaza.

Before the Bush visit, defense officials said army commanders were instructed to scale back operations against Gaza militants while Bush was in the area.

After militants fired a higher-power, longer-range Katyusha rocket at an Israeli city last week, Israel stepped up its counterstrikes in Gaza, targeting buildings the military said were used by militants. Until then, Israel's strikes were pinpoint operations aimed at rocket squads and commanders of militant groups.

In Gaza on Wednesday, thousands of Islamic Hamas supporters chanted "Death to America!" and watched an effigy of Bush go up in flames, as they protested the U.S. president's visit to Israel and the West Bank.

Thousands of Islamic Hamas supporters chanted "Death to America" and watched an effigy of George W. Bush go up in flames Wednesday, as they protested the U.S. president's visit to Israel and the West Bank.

During his eight-day Mideast mission, Bush's challenge is to convince skeptical governments that with just a year remaining in his presidency and Americans deep in the process of selecting his successor, he is willing to devote the time and effort necessary to bridge decades of differences between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed in a meeting Tuesday to instruct their negotiators to begin tackling the core issues of a peace agreement borders, Palestinian refugees and sovereignty over Jerusalem.

An ally of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that he believed Bush's visit would help the sides reach an agreement.

"I am happy that we are beginning to talk on the subjects that perhaps we should have begun to talk about earlier," Vice Premier Haim Ramon told Army Radio. "Both sides pay heed to his (Bush's) requests and his wishes and his visit will certainly accelerate the talks."
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2008, 06:46:07 pm »

                                                 Bush faces obstacles in Mideast

By STEVEN GUTKIN, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jan 9, 2008
JERUSALEM - Seven years of violence have bludgeoned expectations for Mideast peacemaking, and Israelis and Palestinians are greeting President Bush's belated drive to solve their decades-old conflict with deep skepticism.
The major concession required to make it happen an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank looks increasingly unlikely because of the rise of Islamic militants in the Palestinian territories and vehement domestic opposition in Israel.

Palestinians say Israel's refusal to freeze settlement activity in the West Bank sours the atmosphere for peacemaking. Israel says it can't abandon more territory without assurances against a repeat of what happened after it left the Gaza Strip two years ago: a takeover by Hamas militants and a constant barrage of rocket attacks from the lands Israel evacuated.

"You can't expect the Israelis, and I certainly don't, to accept a state on their border that would become a launching pad for terrorist activities," Bush said on the first day of a three-day trip to Israel and the West Bank his first visit to the Holy Land since becoming president.

At the same time, Bush said, "illegal" Israeli settlement outposts in the West Bank have got to go.

Bush's goal of forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the end of his term in January 2009 looks all but impossible with Hamas in control of half the Palestinian territory, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert relying on hawkish coalition partners to keep his government together and seemingly unbridgeable gaps between the sides on the core issues of their conflict: the borders of a future Palestine, a solution for Palestinian refugees and sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Prospects for peace are not totally bleak, however, because of the intolerable cost of failure: a great victory for extremists on both sides. And the good chemistry among the key players Bush, Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas makes progress possible.

The international community has pledged billions of dollars to boost the moribund Palestinian economy. Abbas insists he is making important strides toward reining in extremists. And Olmert has declared the establishment of a Palestinian state to be in Israel's supreme national interest.

Israelis and Palestinians agreed to relaunch long-stalled peace talks at an international peace conference hosted by Bush in Annapolis, Md., in November. Since then, the sides have fallen into their old pattern of using the talks to air mutual grievances rather than getting down to the business of peacemaking.

That, however, began to change on the eve of Bush's visit, when Olmert and Abbas met and announced they had agreed to begin discussions on the conflict's most sensitive issues.

Solving those issues would require each nation to renounce cherished convictions.

Israel would have to relinquish its claims on east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians insist must be the capital of their future state and without which no Palestinian leader could sign a final deal. Palestinians would have to drop their demand that refugees and their descendants from Israel's 1948 war of independence be allowed to return to their original homes inside Israel. That would endanger Israel's character as a Jewish state and no Israeli government would accept it.

These historic concessions might not be possible under the weak leadership of Olmert and Abbas.

And few believe they could happen without serious intervention from the Bush administration, which followed a hands-off policy during its first seven years.

"American foreign policy has been a disaster in the region. The U.S. has lost its standing, has lost its credibility, and the Arab and Palestinian public, the Islamic public as a whole, have all turned against U.S. policies," said Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi.

The huge gulf between Israeli and Palestinian perspectives was evident in Bush's reception Wednesday.

Israeli children danced and sang, and Israel's president and prime minister, along with the entire Cabinet and the nation's chief rabbis, greeted him at the airport. In the Gaza Strip, on the other hand, thousands of Hamas supporters chanted "Death to America!" and watched an effigy of Bush go up in flames. Posters portrayed Bush with fangs, or sipping from a cup labeled "Muslim blood."

Few events could burnish Bush's legacy better than a breakthrough in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his final year in office. But the formidable challenges he faces were on stark display on Wednesday, when Palestinian militants fired at least 20 rocket and mortar shells from Gaza into Israel, and the Israeli military responded with attacks that killed three people.

Most of the crude rockets from Gaza are falling on a single, depressed town in southern Israel Sderot away from the Jewish state's major population centers. If West Bank militants began staging similar attacks, Tel Aviv and other top cities could well be hit.

That's the main reason Israel won't easily give up the West Bank, where it currently imposes strict travel restrictions on the local population helping to reduce suicide attacks inside Israel while at the same time stoking hatred and despair among Palestinians.

"There will be no peace unless terror is stopped. And terror will have to be stopped everywhere," Olmert told reporters after meeting Bush for two and half hours.
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