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Posted: 8/17/2001 1:54:52 PM EDT
By Danielle Haas JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israelis are losing faith in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's ability to end nearly 11 months of conflict with the Palestinians, according to an opinion poll published on Friday. The Gallup poll for the Maariv newspaper showed 70 percent of respondents did not believe the right-wing former general, dubbed "Mr. Security" by his supporters, would succeed in halting Palestinian violence, up 29 points from the previous survey. Just over half the respondents said Sharon was using too little force to quell the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation that flared in September after peace moves stalled. The latest poll was conducted following two suicide bombings in Israel on August 9 and 12 that killed 15 people and the two bombers. At the United Nations, the Palestinians launched another quest for foreign action after Israel responded to the attacks by seizing Palestinian offices in and around Jerusalem and briefly sending tanks into the West Bank town of Jenin. The 15-member Security Council scheduled an open meeting for Monday for U.N. members to express their views as requested by the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference. Palestinians hope the debate will lead to a formal resolution. RATINGS DOWN Sharon scored a landslide election victory over Labor Party incumbent Ehud Barak in February on a promise to restore security to Israelis. But Friday's poll showed 53 percent of the 593 Israelis polled were unhappy with his efforts to keep his security promise, a 12-point rise from the previous poll. His satisfaction rating dropped 10 points to 49 percent. Despite the evidence that over half of respondents believed Sharon was using too little force against Palestinians, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, an aide to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, said Israelis were increasingly sure military means could not produce security. "The Israeli public has started to realize that a military solution is impossible and that their security will not be achieved by suppressing another people," he told Reuters. Egypt said after talks with Secretary of State Colin Powell that it had put ideas about Middle East peace to the United States, and that it might be able to announce more details in two days. Osama al-Baz, political adviser to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said he also had assurances the United States would be active in Middle East peacemaking.
Link Posted: 8/17/2001 1:55:36 PM EDT
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Sharon in a telephone call on Friday that Israel and Palestinians needed to resume peace talks to prevent more Middle East bloodshed. The Kremlin press service said Sharon had told Putin that the Israeli government intended to restrict its response to extremist acts to the "necessary minimum." About 680 people have been killed since September, including more than 500 Palestinians and about 150 Israelis. SPORADIC VIOLENCE In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian witnesses and hospital officials said Israeli troops shot and wounded 14 youths in stone-throwing clashes. The Israeli army said an explosive device went off without causing damage close to the settlement of Gilo, which Israel calls a Jerusalem neighborhood. Witnesses reported stone throwing at Israeli troops near Ramallah and Bethlehem in the West Bank. Israel remained on high alert for suicide bombings by the Muslim militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. "They are very grave warnings and very precise," Avi Pazner, an Israeli government spokesman, said without elaborating. He called on the Palestinian Authority to "do everything it can to prevent them and to arrest the attackers before they arrive." Israeli security sources said they had prevented a suicide attack due to be carried out in the port city of Haifa on Friday after arresting two Islamic Jihad activists armed with 10 kilos of explosives near Jenin. Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat was due to meet U.S. envoy David Satterfield in Jericho, in the West Bank, later on Friday as diplomatic moves continued to try to coax the parties into implementing a U.S.-backed truce-to-talks formula. Sharon accuses Arafat of giving free rein to militants and has refused to resume peace negotiations until there is a complete halt to violence. The Palestinians say talks cannot take place until Israel withdraws from nine Palestinian offices it seized in and around Jerusalem last Friday, including Orient House, the unofficial PLO headquarters in the city. In the northern Israeli Arab town of Nazareth, some 10,000 demonstrators protesting the Orient House takeover denounced what they called Israel's policy of escalation. A Palestinian official in Gaza, Osama al-Ali, charged Israel with "creating a human catastrophe" by stopping up to 1,000 sick Palestinians passing from Egypt to Gaza via the Rafah crossing. The Israeli army said it allowed all humanitarian cases to cross.
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