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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Q&A: Cycle of violence
BBC News Online provides an at-a-glance guide to some of the main issues behind the current violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Can the cycle of violence be stopped?

The ceasefire negotiated by CIA Director George Tenet in mid-June appears to be effectively over. In its place a cycle of ever-escalating violence has developed.

On the ground the violence is going unchecked as each side responds to what it sees as provocation from the other.

Israel's assassination policy, what it calls "targeted killings", was an attempt to deal with the threat of suicide bombers and to stop attacks on soldiers and settlers in Palestinian areas.

The policy, which resulted in the death of several prominent Palestinian military and political leaders, appears to have provoked more retaliation - including a deadly suicide bomb attack in the centre of Jerusalem.

Calls for international intervention, which might break the cycle, have so far proved fruitless. The United States administration seems unwilling to get bogged down in the politics of the region.

Palestinians are still calling for international observers, but the Israeli Government is highly sceptical, and the international community is not pushing the idea.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres - relatively-speaking a dove - favours direct talks with the Palestinians.

Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, is still insisting that there must be a week without any violence before talks can begin. Most observers say this is not realistic.

What has happened to the Mitchell report?

The Mitchell report, which recommended ways of ending the months of violence, seemed to offer a framework for international efforts to end the violence.

The report, issued in May by a commission headed by former US Senator George Mitchell, called for a cooling-off period, confidence-building measures, an end to settlement building and resumption of peace talks. Both sides accepted the report, but interpreted it differently.

Given the high levels of violence, the Mitchell report, like the US-brokered ceasefire, seems an irrelevancy. Neither side appears willing or able to take the conciliatory steps the Mitchell report requires.

Is there still a danger of all-out war?

Israeli troop build-ups in the West Bank have reawakened suspicions that its army could be laying the groundwork for an all-out assault on the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Israel denies this. Israel maintains that actions including helicopter rocket attacks on Palestinian targets, tank fire and incursions into Palestinian territory are pre-emptive strikes against those it believes are planning to attack Israel.

Israel argues that soldiers under the control of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are planning operations, bombings and military attacks, against Israelis.

Israeli officials hold Mr Arafat responsible for Palestinian violence, whatever its source.

Many Palestinians justify attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers on Palestinian land as an attempt rid themselves of an occupier and oppressor. Some Palestinians, go further and support Islamic Jihad and Hamas attacks inside Israel. These are often condemned by the Palestinian Authority.

Despite this situation, it appears that both sides are trying to avoid a major conflagration.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has toned down personal, verbal attacks on Mr Arafat, and is resisting calls for the army and his hard-line supporters for Mr Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to be destroyed.

Mr Arafat has been making some efforts to rein in Hamas and Islamic Jihad. There have been recent clashes between Palestinian factions as a result of these effort.

Even the most militant Palestinians are aware that they are not likely to win a war between Israel and the Palestinians.


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