Israel weighs response to attacks

U.S. officials to make diplomatic mission to region

A student at an Israeli yeshiva, or religious school, is reflected in the bullet-riddled window near where three Orthodox Jewish students were killed Tuesday night by a Palestinian gunman.


May 29 —   A resurgence of suicide attacks has put Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon under growing public pressure to launch a new operation against Palestinian militants. 
   The Israeli Cabinet on Wednesday weighed its response to the latest attacks, which left six Israelis dead, including three teen-agers at a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. 
   Meanwhile, the U.S. is restarting its Mideast initiative by dispatching top envoys who will focus on security and political issues. 

        WITH THE SURGE of bombings and shootings, Sharon was under growing pressure from the public to take decisive action against Palestinian militants. However, the Cabinet’s options appeared limited, and radio reports said the ministers failed to reach a decision.
       A six-week military offensive that wound down earlier this month weakened but did not crush Palestinian militias, and the military’s follow-up actions — almost daily, intelligence-driven raids and arrests of militant — have failed to prevent terror attacks.
       Details of a new U.S. Middle East initiative started emerging on Wednesday, with the announcement that U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet would travel to to the region Friday. Tenet will join Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, who arrived in Cairo on Wednesday at the start of a Middle East tour.
       Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tenet and Burns would “discuss how best to move ahead on the president’s integrated three-part strategy.”
       The strategy includes setting up an effective Palestinian security system, renewing a political process “that aims at a two-state solution and brings hope to Palestinians and Israelis alike” and “building strong, responsible Palestinian Authority institutions in preparation for statehood,” Powell said.
       Tenet will concentrate on security aspects and Burns on the political aspects of the strategy, he said. They will return to Washington in time for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s visit next week, he said.


       In an attack Tuesday night, a Palestinian gunman shot and killed three Israeli teen-agers at an Orthodox Jewish boarding school in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, near the Palestinian city of Nablus. The victims were identified as Gilad Steinitz, 14; Avraham Siton, 17, and Netanel Riahi, 17.

       The attacker died after the settlement’s security officer and its junior high school principal Nitzan Yamini, a reserve paratroop officer, shot him. Yamini told Israeli Army Radio he had recently taken to sleeping with his M16 assault rifle next to his bed.
       Yamini said the gunman began his shooting spree on the school’s basketball court. “There were at least six students on the court. He hit three and three managed to run away,” he said. “Then he went straight for the dormitories.”
       “I charged the terrorist,” Yamini said. “I shot him in the head.”
       There was no claim of responsibility, but Israeli government spokesman Dore Gold blamed the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a militia linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, for the Itamar attack.
       The militia carried out two attacks earlier in the week — a suicide bombing Monday that killed an Israeli woman and her 18-month-old granddaughter, and a West Bank shooting ambush that killed an Israeli motorist Tuesday.
       “Israeli teen-agers, grandmothers, even Israeli infants, continue to be the primary targets of Mr. Arafat’s Fatah organization in their campaign of terrorism against the people of Israel,” Gold said.