region after foreign ministers from dozens of Muslim countries meeting in Malaysia accused the small Jewish state "of dragging the Middle East toward war."
The statement came just before a car bomb exploded in Jerusalem, killing the man in the car and wounding at least one policeman, at a time when the country was already coping with the aftermath of several other suicide bombings on Sunday March 31, in which at least 15 and probably 16 people were reportedly killed.
"Early Sunday afternoon, a bomber blew himself up in an Arab-owned restaurant in Haifa, killing at least 16 Israelis – Jews and Arabs – and wounding 40 others, four seriously, " the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) said Monday April 1. Later "a bomber struck outside a medical center in the Jewish community of Efrat, in the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, wounding six," the well informed ICEJ reported.
MORE SUICIDE BOMBINGS
ICEJ staff members added that the suicide attacks have come "in rapid" succession and noted the latest violence came after another attack Saturday March 30. "As Shabbat ended on Saturday evening, suicide bomber targeted a popular café on Allenby Street near the Tel Aviv beachfront, wounding at least 34 people, five seriously."
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that Israel is now "at war against terrorism" and he stressed that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "is directing" that terror. However the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) said in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur that Israel was responsible for the escalation by occupying Palestinian territories.
In a statement on Monday, April 1, the OIC condemned what it called "state terrorism" exercised by Israel and suggested it would continue to support the Palestinian people and Yasser Arafat. Muslim leaders have said that some of the violence viewed as terrorism by the West is part of a "legitimate struggle for independence or self-determination," as in the case of the Palestinians.
BUSH CRITICIZES ARAFAT
However United States President George W. Bush has urged Arafat to put an end to Palestinian suicide bomb attacks against Israelis. Bush said suicide bombing in the name of religion is simple terror and that the "civilized world must band together to stop this kind of activity."
Meanwhile, Israeli forces have widened their offensive in the West Bank, sending tanks into more Palestinian towns as part of what the authorities say is a "hunt for terrorists." Eight Israeli soldiers were reportedly wounded in Ramallah during house-to-house searches.
The Voice of America quoted Palestinian sources as saying Israeli tanks have moved into the northern town of Tulkarm after re-occupying Qalqilya late Sunday, March 31. Israeli tanks have also been seen on the edge of Jesus’ birthplace Bethlehem, after briefly entering the town early Monday, April 1.
JOURNALISTS UNDER FIRE
Palestinian doctors told reporters that five foreign peace activists and a Palestinian news cameraman were wounded by Israeli army gunfire during a protest march in the re-occupied town of Beit Jala near Bethlehem.
Elsewhere the Cable News Network also said that one of its armored vehicles came under fire and crews of other American networks had encountered similar situations. News about the skirmishes came as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat remained trapped inside his West Bank headquarters compound in Ramallah, surrounded by Israeli forces for a fourth day.
A number of explosions have been heard in Ramallah, as Israel is preparing for more bloodshed. "There are "hot warnings" of even more suicide bombers already roaming the streets of Jerusalem and other Israeli cities," said the ICEJ, which has urged Christians to pray for and visit Israel at this time of crisis.