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SLUG: 6-125766 Israel Gaza Attack
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DAY=07/24/02

TYPE=U-S OPINION ROUNDUP

TITLE=ISRAELI GAZA ATTACK

NUMBER=6-125766

BYLINE=ANDREW GUTHRIE

DATELINE=WASHINGTON

EDITOR=ASSIGNMENTS

TELEPHONE=619-3335

CONTENT=

INTRO: President Bush is condemning as "heavy handed" an Israeli attack in Gaza that killed a key Hamas leader and 14 others. At least one U-S daily is labeling the air force missile strike "an atrocity" and both the United Nations and the European Union are blasting Israel for firing on a civilian building in the middle of the night.

The U-S press is overwhelmingly critical of the attack that one paper says scuttled budding peace talks between the Israelis and Hamas. We get a sampling now from ______________ in today's U-S Opinion Roundup.

TEXT: An Israeli Air Force F-16 jet fighter flew over Gaza City Monday night and fired a single missile that killed key Hamas member Sheik Salah Shehade. Israel says he was the mastermind of numerous terrorist bombings in recent months that have killed scores of innocent Israeli citizens, including young children.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called the attack "one of our biggest successes" although in Washington, President Bush was described by one aide as "visibly angry" after he heard the extent of the civilian casualties: 14 dead, including nine children, and at least 100 wounded, and the building virtually destroyed. In Baltimore, Maryland, The Sun is disgusted by the carnage.

VOICE: If you believed before now that there were clear rights and wrongs in this conflict, that one interest's cause was pure and the other's pernicious, the attack . proved that the disregard for innocent life runs deep on both sides. . Israeli authorities called it an "assassination" intended to help defend against terrorist attacks, but that's a dubious description, given .the amount of destruction that took place.

TEXT: Hawaii's Honolulu Advertiser agrees with President Bush that the attack was "heavy-handed."

VOICE: That's because at least 14 other Palestinians, including nine children, also died. The Israelis who executed this attack must have known of the probability of this gruesome "collateral damage" and concluded the trade-off in executing a terrorist was acceptable. Where we part company with the Bush administration is in its refusal to acknowledge any parallel between the Gaza attack and the civilian toll that U-S bombings have exacted in Afghanistan. The situations are quite parallel.

TEXT: In Wisconsin, a shocked Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recoils at Israel's description.

VOICE: Israel's assassination of a Hamas chieftain in Gaza was cheered by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as "one of our biggest successes" in the struggle against terrorism. In truth, however, it was an indefensible and indiscriminate attack by a government that seems to have run out of ideas.

TEXT: The Boston Globe says of Mr. Sharon's statement:

VOICE: At best, this is the thinking of a tank commander with no grasp . of statecraft. At worst, it is the boasting of a hawk in power who deliberately launched his missile attack at a moment when high-level Israeli and Palestinian officials were meeting to discuss security cooperation and after Hamas leaders spoke publicly about stopping suicide bombings.

TEXT: The [Northern New Jersey, Bergen County] Record says: "The United States, United Nations, and European Union were right to condemn Israel's airstrike .while in Connecticut, The Hartford Courant laments: "One Atrocity Begets Another."

TEXT: Speaking in defense of Israel, The New York Post calls the attack: "a huge victory," adding:

VOICE: Yes, some 14 civilians also died in the attack, which is a shame. But Sheik Salah Shehade was the commander of terrorist operations for Hamas; Israeli officials called him the Osama bin Laden of Hamas . [Mr.] Shehade's death moves the whole planet closer to victory over terror. But you'd never know it from the way the world, Washington included, has reacted. . Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer added: "This heavy-handed action does not contribute to peace." Yes it did: There's one less terrorist for the world to deal with. . So hats off to Israel for its good aim. Meanwhile, there is a lesson here: As Washington and Jerusalem prosecute the war against those who attack innocents, everyone else better get out of the way.

TEXT: In the Midwest, The Chicago Sun-Times tends to agree with the New York Post and asks readers to put it in emotional perspective, using the Afghanistan conflict as an example.

VOICE: War hardens and coarsens attitudes and feelings about life. Our troops accidentally killed civilians in Afghanistan. But we soldier on, determined not to let it happen again, though we know it will. And what would be our reaction if, in one of the caves we blasted with our bombs and missiles, we found the corpse of Osama bin Laden accompanied by the bodies of his wives and children? Regret certainly at the loss of innocent life. But also satisfaction at the demise of one who murdered so many Americans.

.[Mr.] Shehade .knew that Israel targeted for death the ringleaders of terror. Still, he chose Tuesday to stay in a building where civilians, women and children lived. . That we are even talking about the ethical and moral quandary of civilian casualties is evidence of the hell to which [this]. conflict has descended.

TEXT: Still in the Midwest, The Saint Louis [Missouri] Post-Dispatch laments the loss of civilians, but sees some justification for the killing.

VOICE: Assassinations are distasteful. But [Mr.] Shehade clearly had earned his status as an enemy combatant. Israel acted in self-defense. President George W. Bush's spokesman criticized the ... attack as "heavy-handed" because of the "loss of innocent life" and the setback to peace. Mr. Bush is correct, but there is more than a little hypocrisy in the criticism, given civilian casualties in mistaken U-S attacks in Afghanistan.

TEXT: A clearly upset Houston [Texas] Chronicle begins with prophetic poetry.

VOICE: "Neither race had won, nor could win, the war. The war [itself] had won, and would go on winning." The words of British poet Edward Blunden after the battle of the Somme in 1916 seem appropriate for this bloody juncture in the Middle East. An Israeli warplane attack on a Gaza apartment block . is but the latest headline indicating the war itself is the winner. The intended target . was Salah Shehade, who led the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam brigades for Hamas, which has killed scores of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks.

. The unintended victims were at least 14 other[s] . including nine children ages two months to 14 years, and at least 145 others who were wounded. . in firing a missile into an apartment building in a densely populated neighborhood in the middle of the night, what other outcome was to be expected? . through such actions . Israel . risks losing any moral high ground, and that is a disservice to the Israeli people, not to mention to the cause of peace.

TEXT: In Michigan, The Detroit News has our last word, and considers this attack a watershed moment in the ongoing conflict.

VOICE: Democracies are expected to behave better than totalitarian regimes. That can be frustrating when it places civilized nations like Israel and the United States at a disadvantage in defending themselves against homicidal, anything-goes regimes like the Palestinian Authority and al-Qaida network. But the lines of decency and honorable conduct must be maintained, or it becomes hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Israel crossed the line [this week] when it fired a rocket into an apartment building where a high-ranking Hamas terrorist was sleeping with his family. .Getting rid of [Mr.] Shehade was not worth endangering the lives of children.

TEXT: With that condemnation from The Detroit News, we conclude this sampling of American editorial reaction to the Israeli bombing of a Gaza apartment building earlier this week.

NEB/ANG/RH



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