Two bombs shatter Mideast peace hours after agreement signed
September 5, 1999
TIBERIAS, Israel (CNN) -- Three people died in two explosions in Israel on Sunday, less than a day after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signed a revamped land-for-security accord.
A suspected car bomb killed two people and injured four -- one critically -- in the northern Israeli resort town Tiberias. A similar explosion, about 20 minutes later and 50 miles (80 km) away, killed one person in the Mediterranean coastal city of Haifa.
Police said they believed the Tiberias explosion occurred in a car traveling down a busy street and that the two dead people were both occupants of the vehicle. The four wounded were all pedestrians.
There was no clear indication that the explosion was a terrorist act related to the peace process. But both hard-line Israelis and Palestinians oppose the new agreement, and Islamic extremists have threatened to escalate violence in the wake of the signing.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority was "firm in its policy of zero tolerance to terror."
"I hope that the enemies of peace will not resort to such activities," Erakat said. "We are determined to continue. I hope these enemies of peace will be stopped."
A series of bus bombings helped cripple the peace process in 1996 and led to the election of hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel's prime minister. Barak, campaigning on promises to reinvigorate the process, defeated Netanyahu in elections earlier this year.
The blasts came shortly after Israel's Cabinet ratified the updated Wye River land-for-security accord, which Barak and Arafat signed Sunday in Egypt.
Barak and Arafat ended months of stalled negotiations by putting their names to the agreement in front of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak who applauded as the two men signed the agreement and embraced.
"The people of the Middle East are ready for the dawn of a new era," Barak said after the signing. "I believe it is our duty, leaders of all parties, to pave the way."
Arafat added, "We assert, as we always promised, that we respect and implement our commitments."
Sunday's Cabinet vote was 21-2 in favor of the agreement --Interior Minister Natan Sharansky of the Russian immigrant Yisrael Ba-Aliyah party and Construction Minister Yitzhak Levy of the National Religious Party voted against the accord.
Barak will now defend the agreement before the Knesset, Israel's parliament, where a stiffer fight was expected. But Barak's coalition holds a 73-47 majority in parliament, and implementation is expected to begin by next weekend.
Hard-line Israeli and Palestinian activists each accused their respective leaders of giving too many concessions. Jewish settlers living on occupied land in the West Bank condemned the deal, saying it would place them at risk.
"Barak deserves a medal of honor for his incredible success in making a dangerous agreement worse," Uri Ariel, the mayor of Beit El settlement, said in a statement.
Outside Bethlehem, young Palestinians burned a model of an Israeli prison and threw stones at Israeli troops, slightly injuring a press photographer. Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual head of the militant Islamic group Hamas, dismissed the agreement as "concessions to Israeli and American pressure. All that served is Israeli security."
Serious political opposition to the agreement has already surfaced. United Torah Judaism, an ultra-conservative religious party, threatened Saturday to quit Israel's coalition government -- in part because negotiations with the Palestinians took place on the Sabbath.
Correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.
Israelis, Palestinians break deadlock on Wye River accord
Israel's Institutions of Government
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