Islamic Jihad Claims Responsibility for Afula Attack as Palestinians, Israelis at Odds over US Peace Mission
The military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, Jerusalem Brigades, has claimed responsibility for an attack in the northern Israeli town of Afula in which two passers-by were killed along with the two Palestinian assailants who sprayed a crowd with machine-gun fire, reported Al Jazeera satellite channel, citing a statement by the group.
A third reportedly managed to escape, according to Radio Israel.
Meanwhile, the US peace envoys who began a ceasefire mission on Tuesday face the hurdle of differing expectations from the Jewish state and the Palestinians, as well as from within the Israeli government itself, said AFP.
Retired Marine Corps general Anthony Zinni and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns face the task of serving different aims for the two sides which have been in conflict since September 2000.
For Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the only justification for the mediation is to halt Palestinian attacks, with the discussions focused solely on security issues.
The Palestinians see political issues as the key to resolving the conflict, failing which the mission is doomed to fail.
"Security measures serve no purpose if they are not linked to political measures," Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo warned ahead of Yasser Arafat's meeting with the envoys on Wednesday, said AFP.
The different approaches are reflected in the line-up of the teams of negotiators formed by Sharon and Arafat to huddle with Zinni and Burns.
The Israeli delegation, which excludes any political official, is led by General Meir Dagan, a military man and expert in counter-terrorism who has a hawkish reputation.
Headed by parliament speaker Ahmed Qorei, who was closely associated with the 1993 autonomy accords, the Palestinian team is made up of senior political figures, including Arafat's top peace negotiators.
Arafat's message to Zinni is unmistakable.
"Sharon is not interested in a political solution to the problem and the appointment of Dagan reflects his intentions," said a Palestinian studies group founded by MP Hanan Ashrawi.
But another major obstacle for the US mission is a split within Israel's coalition government on the goals.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, whom the envoys were to meet later Tuesday after having spent seven hours with Sharon, is not on the same wavelength as his prime minister.
Peres wants political issues to be tackled, alongside the security problems, according to Israeli press reports – Albawaba.com
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