Violence Flares Anew in Mideast As Israelis Discuss New Government

Even as Israeli officials were launching discussions on who would form Israel’s new government, a familiar scenario played out between Israel and the Palestinians: deadly violence. A series of escalations took place since Israeli elections last week, appearing to signal that any new Israeli government might have to confront the same violence that has sporadically plagued Israel for more than five years.

Israeli artillery pounded the Gaza Strip as part of a targeting of suspected launch sites of rocket attacks against Israel.

The army, navy and air force all took part in the weekend assault, which came after rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza intensified last week.

Despite the attack, Palestinians fired six Kassams into the Negev on Saturday, Israeli media reported.

No one was injured in those attacks.

Israel also imposed a closure over the weekend around Nablus following a terrorist attack.

The closure around the West Bank city came after a Palestinian terrorist killed four Israelis in the West Bank on March 30.

The suicide attacker is believed to have been disguised as an Orthodox Jew.

The victims were identified as Rafi Halevy, 63, and his wife Helena, 58, of Kedumim, Re’ut Feldman, 20, of Herzliya, and Shaked Lasker, 16, of Kedumim.

The Palestinian Authority had released the bomber from jail weeks earlier, said Gideon Meir, deputy director general for Israel’s Foreign Ministry. “Not only are they doing nothing to counter terrorism, they are encouraging it,” Meir said.

P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, but the Al-Aksa Brigade, the military wing of Abbas’ Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack raised suspicions that Fatah and Hamas are switching places.

Israeli police said they prevented a suicide bombing. A police spokeswoman said a car with two Palestinians in it was stopped from entering the town of Beit She’an on Sunday. The police action came after information was received that a suicide bombing was planned in the area.

Meanwhile, Israeli President Moshe Katsav began discussions on who should be asked to form Israel’s next government. Ehud Olmert, the leader of the Kadima Party, is expected to be asked to form the coalition.

Kadima won the largest number of seats, 29, in the March 28 election.

But Amir Peretz of Labor, which won the second-largest number of seats, reportedly asked Katsav on Sunday that he be given the first chance at forming a coalition based on domestic priorities.

Most observers foresee a government led by Kadima that would include Labor, the Pensioners Party, the leftist Meretz and perhaps Shas, a Sephardi Orthodox party.

NEXT STORY