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Israel/Palestine: Ceasefire collapses as Sharon targets Palestinian leaders
THE CEASEFIRE announced by Palestinian militias at the end of June was called off following the first assassination of a Hamas political leader, Ismail Abu-Shanab, by Israeli forces on 21 August.
Palestinians turned out in tens of thousands to the funeral of Abu-Shanab, who had supported the ceasefire. The Israeli forces had no evidence that he was involved in military activity.
Most press articles imply that the ceasefire was doomed by the horrific Palestinian suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus on 19 August, which killed 21 Israeli people.
But they don't mention that this attack was almost certainly in revenge for recent "targeted liquidations" which have continued throughout the Palestinian ceasefire.
On 8 August, Israeli troops killed two Hamas activists in Nablus and on 14 August they killed the Hebron leader of Hamas's military wing.
The ceasefire was part of the US-pushed 'road map' peace plan, which was inevitably going to crumble at some point as it offers no way forward. And although the map essentially defends the interests of the Israeli ruling class and offers no prospect of meeting Palestinian aspirations, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is determined it should fail as quickly as possible, to avoid making any concessions.
Now, to the disappointment of ordinary people on both sides of the national divide, violence is back again on a daily basis with a resulting increase in feelings of insecurity.
The West Bank and Gaza strip have again been sealed off and more Israeli troops have been sent in with a stepping up of arrests, house demolitions and assassinations.
Senior Israeli military officials have said that a full-scale invasion of the Gaza strip is being considered and the possible exiling or 'elimination' of Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat.
Conditions for the Palestinian masses, which were already desperate, are now deteriorating further due to the renewed military onslaught. The suffering has recently been worsened by a move of the Palestinian Authority, under US pressure to combat 'terror', to freeze the bank accounts of 12 Islamic charities that pay out welfare.
The end of the ceasefire places the Palestinian 'government' led by Abu Mazen - the US regime's chosen man - in a precarious position. A vote of confidence in the government by the Palestinian Legislative Council was recently postponed, under US pressure, in fear that it could fall.
In Israel too, the situation at the top is far from stable. In a recent poll, about half the people questioned thought the Sharon government will not last its full term.
When asked if the general military and economic situation will improve in the next six months, only 20% of Israelis believed it would. Sharon also has the problem that his family is being investigated for suspected corruption involving hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As the Israeli pro-capitalist political leaders once again take the region into further bloodshed, the need has never been greater for Israeli workers to have their own representatives who can fight for their interests and for a socialist Israel.
Likewise, the Palestinian masses need their own independent, class-based representatives to further their struggle and fight for socialism.
In The Socialist 6 September 2003: