A Major Test in Gaza

Article excerpt

The feasibility of the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords was put to a major test Friday when two Israeli soldiers were shot to death at a checkpoint in the Gaza Strip, apparently by Palestinians. After the shooting, the car in which the gunmen were riding sped directly into the Gaza area that had been turned over to Palestinian control only two days before.

Will Palestinian police track down the culprits or will the Gaza now be seen as a refuge for Palestinian terrorists? The answer could go a long way to determining the future of the peace process.

Israeli soldiers withdrew from most of the Gaza Strip Wednesday in accordance with the limited self-rule agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The troops remain in buffer zones around 19 Jewish settlements in Gaza and along the Gaza's border with Israel. It was at one of the checkpoints on a road leading to Israel that the attack took place. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which oppose peace with Israel, claimed responsibility for the attack.

If, in the eyes of Israelis, Palestinian self-rule is seen to mean that militants will be allowed a free hand to make war on Israel and the settlements in Gaza, the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin would be under pressure to send in the army to make the area secure. At the very least, further moves toward Palestinian self-rule would be halted. For that reason, it is especially important that the PLO police move swiftly and surely, leaving no doubt that they are in charge. …