Middle East on the Brink

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JERUSALEM: The war of words between Benjamin Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat continues to heat up, and US special envoy Dennis Ross is flying in to cool things down. He may have his work cut out -- a very real mini-war has already exploded along Israel's northern border.

For the first time in 15 months, Katyusha rockets slammed into Israel this morning from Southern Lebanon. Katyushas are the signature weapon of Hizballah, and Israeli warplanes immediately retaliated -- despite the fact that the Islamic militant group had denied responsiblity. Never mind, say the guerillas: since everything's blowing up, we might as well resume rocket attacks after all.

This action, which ends the 1996 ceasefire between Israel and Hizballah, may merely mean a return to business as usual. But it couldn't have come at a worse time. TIME's West Bank correspondent Jamil Hamad reports that resentment is brewing in Palestinian territory: "there is a prevailing feeling of despair, frustration and anger," says Hamad. By Sunday, even Dennis Ross may be powerless to prevent the pot boiling over.