Two explosions in Gaza early Tuesday and the fatal shootings of two Palestinians in the West Bank gave fresh impetus to the spiral of violence between Palestinians and Israelis, even as the political front continued to crumble.
One of the explosions killed a Palestinian man.
As the sense of crisis worsened, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly scheduled a visit to Washington to meet with President Clinton on Monday.
In Washington, King Hussein of Jordan said the crisis requires “a more active U.S. role.”
“Minds have to be put to work and heads need to be knocked together,” Hussein told a small group of journalists at his Washington hotel.
“The United States is in the position to be the arbiter and the partner of all concerned.”
With the United States offering few new ideas publicly on how to break out of a dangerous impasse, the Israelis and Palestinians seem unable to do more than trade blows and recriminations and brace for more trouble.
Tuesday’s attacks were carried out in the name of the “Abu Ghneim commando.” “Abu Ghneim” is the Arabic name for the hill in southeastern Jerusalem on which Israel has broken ground for a controversial housing project.
But in Gaza, Palestinian officials and witnesses said the explosion near Kfar Darom appeared to have been caused by a grenade thrown or fired from an Israeli army jeep at a man in a Palestinian police uniform standing by the road.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials insisted that both explosions were attempted suicide bombings.
Netanyahu said the explosions “proved that the green light hasn’t changed.” The reference was to Netanyahu’s charge last month that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat had given an indirect “green light” to Islamic terror groups to unleash attacks on Israel.
Arafat treated the charges with the same disdain with which he has reacted to all of Netanyahu’s charges of recent weeks: “What will be the reaction from our side to control more and more?” he asked. “For every pressure, there is a reaction. This is natural law.”
On the West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot two Palestinians to death.
One Palestinian was said by Israeli authorities to have been trying to commit a robbery.
In the other shooting outside Nablus, a Palestinian police officer in civilian clothes was shot to death during a stone-throwing melee.
Palestinian hospital officials said he had been hit by a real bullet. Israeli officials said they had used only rubber bullets, which are, in fact, metal slugs encased in rubber.
The shootings marked the 13th day of violence over Israel’s decision to proceed with the housing development in Jerusalem, with no sign of a way out.
In Israel, an American initiative has come to be viewed as the sole solution to the crisis because Netanyahu is effectively trapped between the hard-line demands of his conservative coalition and the refusal of Arafat to continue any contacts.
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