[EDITORIALS]Israeli restraint is needed

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[EDITORIALS]Israeli restraint is needed

The relation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is heading toward its nadir. Last weekend Hamas, a militant Palestinian organization, carried out three suicide bombings in Israel that killed 25 persons. Israel retaliated Monday with air strikes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Furthermore, it defined the Palestinian Authority as an entity assisting terrorist attacks. Israel appears to be on the brink of intensifying its military operations against the Palestinians.

We are deeply concerned that the vicious cycle of attacks and retaliation between the Palestinians and Israel will touch off an explosion in the Islamic world in conjunction with the situation in Afghanistan.

The Hamas attacks on innocent people are unjustifiable. Hamas said the attacks were retaliation for the assassination by Israel of their military leader nine days ago. But indiscriminate suicide bombings are crimes against humanity. That is why the Palestinian Authority immediately condemned the attacks, declared a state of emergency and started the mass arrest of members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

It is unclear whether Israel is seeking to eliminate Palestinian terrorists by pressuring Yasser Arafat or even trying to get rid of Mr. Arafat himself. Each choice entails problems. If we look into the structure of this crisis, we easily realize why this is so.

The vicious terrorist attacks by militant Palestinian organizations and Israel's retaliation are not as simple as the relation between Osama bin Laden, the accused mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks, and the United States. This is because Israel is in the position of having to shoulder a relatively heavier burden to cultivate peace and coexistence between the Palestinians and Israel.

The terrorist attacks in Israel happened as America's special envoy for peace to the Middle East restarted his mission. To end the chain of violence, Israel must exercise self-control. Israel's self-restraint will help the moderate faction within the Palestinian Authority, including Mr. Arafat, who is facing a double- edged sword, to gain more power.

Mr. Arafat should place top priority on taking firm measures to get rid of terrorist groups.
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