March 31, 2002
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declares Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat “the enemy of Israel and the enemy of the free world” in an angry, five-minute, mid-Passover address to the nation after two suicide bombings during the day.
A suicide attack by a Hamas bomber from Jenin kills 16 Israelis and injures dozens of others during lunch at Haifa’s Matza restaurant, operated by an Arab family. Two hours later, a suicide attack claimed by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade on a medical station in Efrat on the West Bank injures four Israelis.
The attacks are among five suicide bombings in five days, including the deadliest incident of the Second Intifada: the March 27 bombing of a seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya by a Hamas operative disguised as a woman. The Netanya attack killed 30 Israelis and injured 140 others.
While U.S. President George W. Bush condemns the Haifa bombing, the European Union demands the immediate implementation of a U.N. resolution calling for Israeli troops to withdraw from all West Bank cities.
“Everyone who is peace-loving, everyone who has been educated in the values of liberty and democracy, must be aware of the fact that Yasser Arafat is a stumbling block to peace in the Middle East,” Sharon says in his address, which hammers home the idea that every outreach by Israel has been answered by terrorism. “Yasser Arafat is a danger to the entire region.”
Arafat, surrounded by Israeli tanks in his Ramallah compound, remains defiant in his own statement. He calls himself “one of the martyrs of my people” while meeting with 40 European and American peace activists who have broken through the Israeli lines to offer Arafat support and protection.