WASHINGTON: President Clinton left for Egypt Tuesday afternoon to attend a multinational conference aimed at "beating back terrorism." The summit is being held in response to the recent wave of suicide bombings in Israel that have claimed 62 lives. Muslim militant group Hamas has claimed responsibility for the bombings, saying they are meant to derail the peace process between Israel and Palestinians. "We must not let the terrorists in the Middle East have the victory they seek: the death of the very hope for peace," Clinton said Monday night. Clinton's trip is expected to be the first step toward an anti-terrorism agreement between the United States and Israel. Representatives from nearly 30 countries, including many Arab nations, will attend Wednesday's summit. The presence of Arab leaders signifies a dramatic change in Mideast relations since Israel and the PLO signed a peace agreement less that three years ago. "The 1993 deal has been the linchpin to peace," TIME correspondent Scott MacLeod says. "The Palestinian problem has always been at the center of the dispute between the Arabs and Israel. The peace deal paved the way for other countries to follow suit." Syria, which had been engaged in talks with Israel before the bombings, is not expected to send a representative to the summit. Syria supports many radical groups, including Hamas, and MacLeod says President Hafez Assad will eventually have to play a key role in preserving the peace agreement. "Assad's refusal to attend the conference is part of a consistent strategy to use militant surrogates as part of his playing hand in negotiations with Israel," MacLeod says. "This doesn't mean that he will resist efforts to crack down on terrorists, or that he is supporting them more. He is just using this as a political card."