Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Economist.com | Israel
Most Palestinians do not believe an attack will be made on their leader this time. They are, instead, bracing themselves for more of the same: tightened sieges and curfews in their cities. Even before the bombing, the Israeli army had reoccupied Jenin and slapped a curfew on Qalqiliya.

The greater fear—especially among Palestinians ensnared in their increasingly isolated villages—is that Israeli settlers will be given free rein to exact revenge. In the past month, armed gangs of settlers have tried to prevent Palestinian farmers from harvesting the olive crop, leaving at least one Palestinian dead and acres of farmland torched. The aim is to drive out Palestinians from areas that abut the settlements. It is proving successful. On October 18th, the last remaining Palestinian families left a village near Nablus after two years of armed harassment from settlers and no protection from the army.

Palestinians also expect Mr Sharon will authorise the demolition of more houses belonging to the families of suicide bombers, and the assassinations of Islamic Jihad and Hamas leaders. They are equally convinced it won’t stop the bombers, who are proving remarkably resilient in the teeth of Israel’s repression. More than 80 Palestinians have been killed in the past month, many of them civilians. It is from such bloodied soil the Islamists draw their sustenance, says Jamal Zaqout, a secular leader in Gaza. “Support for the suicide bombers grows the more Palestinians feel the lack of any kind of international protection,” he adds.