Violence and Loss: Bullet holes scar a glass door at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva and the Gaza village of Al-KararaBy Kevin Peraino | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Mar 7, 2008 | Updated: 3:43 p.m. ET Mar 7, 2008
When paramedic Yerach Tucker arrived at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem last Thursday night, gunshots were still cracking through the halls. As he inched closer to the front door, a stream of young men frantically poured out of the Jewish seminary, their shirts stained with blood. Tucker ducked behind a bus, waited for the shooting to stop, and then crept with his team through the front gates. Inside the school's library, he found students lying slumped at their desks, heads collapsed over their books. "You couldn't see the floor," Tucker recalled. "It was covered in red." Outside, news filtered through the growing crowd that militants in Gaza had celebrated the shooting with their own bursts of gunfire. "We bless the operation," Hamas said in a statement. "It will not be the last." Tucker looked on as an angry mob of ultra-Orthodox men broke into a roar and began to shout, "Death to the Arabs!"
With eight students dead and nine more wounded, the attack was Jerusalem's worst in four years. Tucker, like most Israelis, says he hopes his military will hit back hard--even if it's not clear whether the gunman, an Arab from East Jerusalem, was working on his own. Yet when it comes to longer-term policy toward the Islamists, the paramedic just sighs. "Hamas controls everything in Gaza--we can never finish them off," he says. "They run the place. I don't want to talk to terrorists, but what can you do? Eventually we'll have to talk to them." In the United States, the notion of face-to-face talks with Hamas, which the State Department classifies as a terrorist organization, has long been a political third rail. Yet in the Jewish state a growing chorus of security officials, academics and regular Israelis like Tucker have begun calling for negotiations with the Islamists. In a Haaretz-Dialog poll last month, 64 percent of Israelis said they supported direct talks; among those who belong to the country's dovish Labor Party, 72 percent favor negotiations. Yet even among those surveyed from the hawkish Likud Party, almost half--48 percent--said they favor a face-to-face dialogue. Already in recent weeks, even as the two sides have traded some of the most ferocious bombardments in months, a number of nongovernmental channels have opened between Israelis and the Islamists.
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