August 12, 2003 - In a presumed gesture of cooperation with the Roadmap, on June 29 Palestinian terror groups declared a three-month cease-fire, or hudna. Even though the Roadmap calls for an unlimited cessation of terrorism, the Palestinians still managed to turn this limited pause into a public relations victory.
So how to explain today's events? Two suicide bombers struck almost simultaneously, one at a grocery store in Rosh Ha'ayin, a suburb of Tel Aviv, and another at a bus stop outside Ariel on the West Bank. Yasser Arafat's Fatah Movement took responsibility for the first attack, and Hamas claimed credit for the second.
The bomb in Rosh Ha'ayin, loaded with steel ball bearings, killed a 42-year-old man who had been buying groceries for his two children, and wounded eleven others. In the Ariel attack an 18-year-old Israeli died and two other people were seriously hurt.
While these were the most dramatic terrorist attacks since the cease-fire, they were not the first. Since the hudna supposedly began, several Israelis have been killed and wounded in shootings, stabbings, and kidnappings.
What reason do the Palestinians give for these blatant violations of their own cease-fire?
Hamas leaders said their attack was retaliation for Israel's killing two Hamas members last week in a raid in Nablus. "We are defending ourselves," said Hamas spokesman Abdel Aziz Rantisi. "If we don't defend ourselves, then the Zionist enemy will continue its aggression against our people."
What really happened in Nablus last week?
On August 7 Israeli soldiers surrounded a building in the Asqar refugee camp near Nablus in which a senior Hamas operative, who was wanted for involvement in terrorist activity, was hiding. They asked the building's occupants to turn themselves in. They were answered by shots fired from a first-floor window, killing one Israeli soldier. The soldiers fired back. The building, apparently an ammunition storehouse, was loaded with explosives, and the shots set off multiple explosions. In the rubble of the building lay the body of Hamis Abu-Salem, a senior explosives expert for the Hamas military wing who also trained suicide bombers. Another Hamas activist also died.
Ismail Hanieh, a leader of Hamas in Gaza, said we can return to the cease-fire now that Hamas has "evened the score."
This was the excuse of Hamas for violating the cease-fire: evening the score.
Who will even the score for the victims of the bombs Hamis Abu-Salem made, or the victims of the suicide bombers that he trained?
Who will even the score for all the civilians killed and maimed by Hamas bombs who had nothing to do with the violence until they became its targets?
The two suicide bombers were each 17 years old. The mother of one of them, when she heard of her son's death, beat her fists against the wall and cursed the terrorists who sent her son to his death: "I will kill whoever dispatched my son." Who will even the score for her?
As for Israel's attempts to apprehend wanted Palestinian terrorists, this was the job of Mahmoud Abbas under the provisions of the Roadmap, a job he still refuses to do.
The Palestinian terrorists are cynically using the Roadmap as a tool of violence, using it to cover their preparations for continuing the war while they decide when it applies and when it does not. The Roadmap is not only a test of both Israelis and Palestinians, it is a test of the Quartet. If the Palestinians can say that the Roadmap applied yesterday but that today it's OK to kill innocent bystanders, and tomorrow maybe it will apply again, then the Roadmap has no meaning.
One thing these latest attacks have accomplished is to intensify support for the security fence. Both attacks occurred just south of the section of the fence that has already been completed. Some experts are saying that had construction of the fence been further along, the attacks could have been prevented.
The tragedy of the event is perhaps most keenly expressed by the words of a woman at Rosh Ha'ayin who was walking down some stairs in the market on her way to fill a prescription when the bomb went off. "Before, I wanted to live in peace with them," said Pnina, "but obviously they don't want to live in peace with us."
CNN News Staff. "Suicide bombings in Israel, West Bank." August 12, 2003.
Fisher, Ian. "Two Israelis Killed in Suicide Attacks by Arab Bombers." New York Times, August 12, 2003.
Fox News Staff. "Twin Homicide Bombings Rock Israel." August 12, 2003.
Gutman, Matthew. "Security Professionals; Fence Would have Prevented Attacks." Jerusalem Post, August 12, 2003.
Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit. "IDF Soldier, First Sergeant Ro'i Oren, Killed During IDF Operations in the Askar Refugee Camp in the Nablus Area." August 8, 2003.
Jerusalem Post Internet Staff. "Terror Returns: Two Suicide Bombers Kill Two, Wound Dozen." Jerusalem Post, August 12, 2003.
Peace with Realism