News Briefs

Amid peace talks, cycle of violence in Middle East continues

The level of violence in the Middle East escalated again yesterday. Israel retaliated for a weekend of violence and Palestinians responded with suicide bombings, missile launches and sniper attacks on Israeli civilians. Israeli aircraft pounded targets in Gaza and the West Bank yesterday, killing two members of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s elite security force and a Palestinian policeman. This new wave of violence came after an Israeli mother and her 18-month-old son were injured when Palestinians launched their first Qassam missiles across the “Green Line,” which separates Israel from the occupied territories. President Bush announced at a joint news conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak late yesterday that he was troubled by the growing number of civilian casualties on both sides and that he would increase efforts to restart stalled peace talks. All of this weekend’s violence occurred amidst attempts by Saudi Arabia to bring the feuding parties back to the negotiating table and end the current 18-month-long intifada.

Gardez, Afghanistan

U.S. braces for intense fighting in Operation Anaconda

About 2,000 U.S., allied and Afghan fighters are involved in a combat mission, dubbed Operation Anaconda, directed at remaining al Qaeda and pro-Taliban fighters. The mission began with intense bombing Friday night near the Paktia provincial capital of Gardez-south of Kabul, according to U.S. officials estimate that “several hundred” fighters remain and that defeating them may take a week to 10 days. “They are extraordinarily well dug-in and expected to fight to the death,” one official said, acknowledging that “it is an awful place to fight a war.” The terrain is rough, elevations exceed 11,000, feet and thin air makes breathing difficult and pushes the flight limit for some U.S. combat helicopters. Sources in the Afghan Defense Ministry said front-line commanders have reported significant advancement in Gardez and Shahi-kot. Eight American soldiers have been killed since the operation began and as many as 40 have been wounded. An undetermined number of Afghan forces also have died in the operation, including at least four who were killed over the weekend.

Amherst, Massachusetts

Students report two armed robberies in UMass dorms

Following two armed robberies last week at UMass, campus police are urging students to lock their door at all times. Last Wednesday afternoon, a student in Washington Dormitory reported that two men entered his room and robbed him of “a small amount of prescription medicine” after showing a handgun, according to The Daily Hampshire Gazette. Last Thursday evening there was another report of two men entering a room in Chadbourne Dormitory with what was reported as an automatic handgun and robbing the occupants of “some marijuana and cash,” according to The Gazette. Police surmise that the two incidents were related based on descriptions of the culprits and the “methods of operation.” According to the police, one suspect is described as being a white man about 18 years old and 5’9″ tall, clean-shaven, with brown curly hair and brown eyes. The other man was also white, about 20 years old, 6’1″ tall with stocky build, brown eyes, black hair tight to his scalp and sideburns to his jaw line.