Violence is threatening to push Israelis and Palestinians beyond the scope of renewed peace hopes. An Israeli strike on the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza left two people dead. It followed repeated rocket and mortar attacks on Jewish settlements and an Israeli border town. Both sides appear again to be caught in a cycle of assault and reprisal. It has severely undermined the belief that the election of the moderate Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian president presented a new chance to work towards a lasting settlement.
Abbas has appealed to the militants to stop attacks on Israel but it has had no effect. The Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who says he wants dialogue with Abbas, has cut off all contacts with the Palestinian Authority.
He also said he was giving the army free rein to fight the militants. Israeli media citing security sources said the military was even considering resuming its strategy of directly targeting top militant leaders.
Abbas, seen here with the visiting Japanese foreign minister, is expected to travel to Gaza this week to make a direct appeal to the hardliners to end their campaigns. But they appear determined to assert their authority in advance of Israel’s planned withdrawal from the Strip.