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6/10/03 - ENEMIES OF MIDEAST PEACE - 2003-06-11

The enemies of peace have struck again. On June 8th, Palestinian terrorists disguised in Israeli military uniforms attacked a checkpoint on the border separating Gaza and Israel. Four Israeli soldiers were killed. Later the same day, a fifth Israeli soldier was killed in one of two attacks in Hebron.

Three terrorist groups -- Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade -- issued a joint statement claiming responsibility for the Gaza attack. All three groups have long rejected any efforts to reach a peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.

The terrorist attacks were condemned by Mahmoud Abbas, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Abbas met last week with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush. Terrorist methods, he said then, “are inconsistent with our religious and moral traditions and are dangerous obstacles to the achievement of an independent, sovereign state we seek.”

President Bush had this to say about the terrorists:

“I think people are sick of it. The average Palestinian must understand that their lives will improve with the vision of Prime Minister Abbas. And the Arab neighborhood understands that violence will lead to nothing except misery and the lack of hope.”

Mr. Bush said it is essential to “fight off the terror attacks so that a peaceful Palestinian state can emerge.” He said a special U.S. diplomatic team will soon be on the ground in the Middle East:

“...Holding people to account and working to strengthen Prime Minister Abbas so that he can deliver on his promise -- a promise he made not only to me personally, but a promise he made to the Israeli officials.”

That promise, said President Bush, is to “fight off those elements. . .that want to use violence to destroy. . .the hopes of the Palestinian people.”