Murdered Innocents

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Rising tensions in the Middle East found horrific expression Thursday when a Jordanian border guard opened f ire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls, killing seven and wounding at least six more before he was overpowered by other Jordanian soldiers. TIMEís Bill Stewart reports that the girls were visiting a park at a horseshoe bend in the Jordan River, an ex ceptionally lovely area that has been Jordanian territory since Israel ceded the land in 1994. Seizing the weapon from a fellow soldier, the guard opened fire on the children, who were some 50 yards away, chasing them down a hillside as they fled. A s the dead and injured children were carried to nearby hospitals on both sides of the border, it appeared that the shooting was the random act of a mentally-unbalanced man. Israeli Defense Minister David Levy, however, linked the shooting to diploma tic tensions that grew worse with King Husseinís letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu several days ago, which read in part: "How can I work with you as a partner and true friend in this confused and confusing atmosphere when I sense an INTENT to destroy all I worked to build between our peoples and states?" The link to Hussein, Levy insisted, is clear: "Recent declarations created a psychological atmosphere that could lead to such tragic acts." Stewart observes: %2 2Given the growing crisis surrounding the peace process, today's tragedy can only emphasize the urgency of moving swiftly and decisively to implement the Oslo Accords, something Netanyahu has been reluctant to do. It may well be that today's incid ent was the work of a lone gunman, but lone gunmen on both sides are symptomatic of the deep emotions that surround almost every Israeli-Palestinian issue."