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  Why has the fighting got so bad?
Updated 08 March 2002, 14.10
The empty desk of a dead child
The empty desk of a dead child

It's been one of the worst periods of violence in recent times in the Middle East.

Some are saying this is the lead-up to all-out war.

Newsround's Matthew Price explains why the situation has got so serious.

Why is it suddenly so bad again?

Things have been getting more and more tense for some time.

Mourning grandmother
For the last year and a half - during what's called the intifada, or uprising - about 1,000 Palestinians and 300 Israelis have been killed.

But in the last few days the situation has got much worse. Now, as soon as one side attacks, a revenge attack is launched almost immediately.

What started this round of violence?

On 2 March, a Palestinian Arab suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of mothers and children. Ten people died.

Hours later, ten Israelis were killed in an attack on an army checkpoint.

The Israeli Government decided to attack some Palestinian police and military targets, but in the process killed a number of civilians, including children.

That in turn angered the Palestinians further, and the violence has gone on and on.

You said the violence has been going on for a year and a half now. So is this just more of the same?

Palestinian gunmen
No. Most reckon this is different. Yes, there are long-running problems in the Middle East, but this is worse than it has been for a long time.

The Israeli Government has decided that the best way to stop Palestinians attacking is to attack them until they stop.

The Palestinians in turn get more and more angry and so launch more attacks. Both sides are refusing to back down and while they do that there is every chance more and more people will die.

So can anything be done to stop it?

Israeli soldiers
People have been trying to stop the fighting for ages. The Americans are sending a politician over to the area to try to get Israelis and Palestinians to talk to each other, but that is a long shot.

At the moment it's extremely likely that the violence will continue, and quickly descend into all-out war.

If that happens there will be even less chance of any sort of peace. And many more children and adults will die.

  Click here for more background info on the Middle East

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