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Hanna: Mideast cease-fire process still standing

CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna
CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A suicide bomber in Jerusalem killed three Israelis and himself Thursday, further jeopardizing efforts to forge a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians. By Friday, the Bush administration was signaling that it would not arrange a meeting between Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney unless Arafat did more to stop attacks by Palestinians.

CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna filed this report Friday from the volatile region.

HANNA: It appears as though the cease-fire process has withstood, at this stage, a series of blows as violence continues on the ground. Blows including two suicide bombings within three days against Israeli targets. The U.S. special envoy, Anthony Zinni, went to the West Bank city of Ramallah in the course of the morning for a meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. There was a lot of pressure of Arafat to condemn very strongly the latest suicide bombing attack.

Arafat and Zinni held a meeting for a number of hours. I'm not clear exactly what was discussed at that particular meeting. However, it has been confirmed that there will be a meeting between security chiefs -- Palestinians and Israelis -- in the course of the day. This following the fact that a similar meeting was postponed last night after the bombing in Jerusalem.

That suicide bombing in Jerusalem killed three Israelis. Also dead in the blast was the suicide bomber himself. The bomber has been identified as a 22-year-old from the West Bank city of Nablus.

But according to a statement issued by the Israel Defense Forces, this man was a police officer -- a Palestinian police officer -- who, in fact, had been arrested by the Palestinian security forces in the middle of February. And he was then released within the last few days.

So from Israel, the contention that the Palestinian Authority is not meeting its commitment to deal with ongoing acts of terror, to crackdown on militants, and is continuing to pursue what Israel describes as a revolving door policy of arresting militants and then allowing them free again. No comment from the Palestinian Authority on these Israel Defense Forces claims, although the Authority has contended in the past that it's difficult to keep people in prison when these prisons are attacked by Israeli armed forces.

The Israeli government continues to maintain that Yasser Arafat must be held responsible for these suicide bomb attacks. Arafat has condemned the attack, saying that he condemns all attacks against Israeli civilian targets. And the Israeli Cabinet has indicated that it will still exercise restraint in terms of not carrying out retaliatory actions in the wake of the suicide bombings. The indication is that for the time being, at least, it is prepared to give Anthony Zinni a chance to get a cease-fire in place.




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