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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Suicide bomb fears haunt Israelis
Victim of suicide bomb attack being extricated from wreckage of Israeli bus
The Haifa attack is the first for nine days
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By the BBC's Paul Wood
in Jerusalem
The massive blast in Haifa - a day after 13 army reservists were killed in fighting in the West Bank town of Jenin - was an attack Israelis had been dreading and expecting.

They greeted with weary resignation the television pictures of the crumpled bus, lifted off the ground for a few seconds by the force of the explosives carried by just one suicide bomber.

No wonder that many Israelis are comparing this to Lebanon, when the army went in for a few months, and ended up staying for years

Ordinary Israelis feel that normal life is slipping away. Security guards search you on the way into the supermarket, restaurants and shops are empty.

No-one believes that Operation Defensive Wall - as the army calls its West Bank offensive - can succeed in stopping the suicide bombers altogether.

Preparing for separation

And that is why, whatever the pressures from the Americans, there will be no full withdrawal.

Compared to this, Lebanon was child's play

Israeli reservist back from Jenin
The army will leave the big towns and cities, but the tanks and troops will wait patiently outside for the next time there is an attack.

The Israeli Government says it must construct a security buffer in the West Bank - that means a partial, but permanent reoccupation, and rolling operations.

No wonder that many Israelis are comparing this to Lebanon, when the army went in for a few months, and ended up staying for years.

Except that, to quote one Israeli reservist, fresh from the fighting in Jenin, "compared to this, Lebanon was child's play".

One option left

The international community is watching aghast as each new day brings a further escalation.
Israeli soldier outside the West Bank town of Tulkarm
Israel says operations will continue until all Israelis have security

One Israeli military analyst said that with the current operations, the army had reached the last but one rung on the ladder. All that was left, the last rung, was to destroy the Palestinian Authority, and evict Yasser Arafat.

Palestinian officials warned again on Wednesday that suicide bombings would continue as long as there was an illegal occupation.

Israel says it will continue the military operations until all Israelis have security.

Israeli peace campaigners - a dwindling band - are circulating an email by the Jewish writer Amos Oz. "The tragedy of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict", he says, "is that this is an argument of right against right".

See also:

02 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
09 Apr 02 | Middle East
Powell plans to meet Arafat
09 Apr 02 | Middle East
Aid held up outside Jenin
09 Apr 02 | Middle East
Analysis: Bush's Israeli dilemma
08 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israelis back Sharon
08 Apr 02 | Middle East
Vatican outrage over church siege
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