KILLINGS, INVASIONS AND OCCUPATIONS Israel steps up brutality
ARIEL SHARON, Israel's war criminal prime minister, is continuing his mad war against the Palestinians.
He wants to punish the Palestinian people for resisting Israeli control over their land, no matter how many Palestinian and Israeli people die.
The suicide bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria by a Palestinian on Thursday of last week which killed 15 Israelis only increased Israel's attacks on Palestinians. In response, Israeli fighter planes destroyed a Palestinian police station in the West Bank town of Ramallah, and two Palestinian men were shot dead for throwing stones at Israeli troops.
Israeli troops shot eight year old Sabreen Ijrewi in the head last Sunday, killing her. Israeli tanks invaded the West Bank town of Jenin on Monday night of this week. They took over the building of the town's governor and destroyed two adjoining police stations.
Sharon ordered Israeli security forces to seize the Orient House building in Arab East Jerusalem. Orient House is the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
This is the building where Palestinian negotiators discussed the peace process throughout the 1990s.
Israel has confiscated all documents from the building and, in an act meant to humiliate all Palestinians, has hung the Israeli flag from the roof. Israeli police brutally attacked Jews, Arabs and Westerners protesting against the seizure of Orient House.
"It is a message to the people of Palestine who have been living in the hope of reaching peace," said Sari Nusseibeh, a former peace negotiator. "Orient House is the place where the entire peace process was given birth, and it has been taken from us. The Israeli flag flies over it. Israeli soldiers are inside it. What does this tell us? It is goodbye to peace, goodbye to negotiations."
Israel also invaded and occupied many other Palestinian-controlled buildings, including that of the Palestinian telephone company. Thousands of Palestinian shops and businesses were closed down on Monday of this week as part of a general strike in protest at Israel's actions.
A mass protest was planned against the occupation of Orient House in Jerusalem on Tuesday of this week. The Palestinian resistance and suicide bombings are the response of a people who have been brutalised and oppressed by the Israeli state for over half a century.
Israeli brutality continues today in the vicious repression of the intifada or uprising since it began ten months ago.
Israeli troops have killed over 550 Palestinians, many of them children, civilians or people armed only with stones, since last September. This is around 80 percent of those killed.
Sharon has stepped up the assassinations of Palestinian activists and leaders. The Israeli state has carried out over 40 assassinations since last September. Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, said last week that these killings had "some justification".
But Israel's violence only increased the likelihood of Palestinians seeing suicide bombers as the only way of hitting back against their powerful enemy.
As Robert Fisk, the respected writer on Middle East issues, said of the pizzeria suicide bomber: "He was the logical product of a people crushed, dispossessed, tortured and killed in terrible numbers."
It is because the Palestinians are struggling for justice and a homeland that people will continue to fight back regardless of Israeli violence. Israel and the US continue to call on Yasser Arafat to "stop the violence" and arrest Islamic militants.
But Arafat is not in control of the intifada. His police force arrested four militants on Saturday. Despite this and Israel's increased security, on Sunday a Palestinian suicide bomber injured 20 Israelis in a cafe north of the town of Haifa.
Until the Palestinians get justice there will be no peace.
- For more on peace in the Middle East turn to page 8
FIGHTING between Macedonian government forces and Albanian rebels at the weekend overshadowed the signing of a peace deal between the two on Monday.
That agreement stands little chance of bringing an immediate end to violence, and provides no answers to the deeper causes of the conflict.
NATO put intense pressure on both sides to sign the agreement. That has sharpened political divisions within both the Macedonian government and the Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA).
The chairman of the Macedonian parliament has already said he will not support the deal.
And there were reports at the beginning of this week of splits within the NLA-with one faction vowing to fight on.
Stopping the break-up of Macedonia was one of the few clear aims of the West's intervention in the Balkans which began a decade ago.
Now, after taking sides in the civil wars in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, and bombing Serbia and Kosovo two years ago, it has brought instability and the threat of a bloody war of partition to Macedonia.
Further evidence has emerged which links the Albanian rebels in Macedonia with their counterparts in Kosovo, who worked closely with NATO.
Many of the Kosovan guerrillas were absorbed into the Kosovo Protection Corps paramilitary police. Key members of that force are named in US documents as figures in the Albanian insurgency in Macedonia.
The problem for NATO is that Macedonia has a pro-Western government. It has worked with multinational corporations to push neo-liberal policies through. So the deal brokered by the West is meant to redefine the balance between two sides which have been NATO allies.
The result has been to satisfy neither.
Macedonian prime minister Ljubco Georgievski and interior minister Ljube Boskovski have tapped the feeling among the Macedonian majority that NATO is bullying them as it extends its grip across the region.
But that feeling has been mixed up with attacks on Albanians, who already suffer discrimination, by state forces and in some cases by Macedonian mobs.
On the Albanian side there is a growing feeling that NATO has betrayed them. But that is leading to deeper ethnic hatred of Macedonians.
The NATO presence is poisoning relations between the two groups. Even if the peace agreement ends the immediate fighting, it will lead to future bitter conflict.
It means NATO sending forces into the country and is very similar to the deal that was supposed to bring peace to Cyprus in the 1960s.
That plan did not bring Greek and Turkish Cypriots together. It laid the basis for a decade of fighting followed in 1974 by partition, which continues to this day.