Palestinians were engaging in panic buying of essential items as they braced for Israel to retaliate for the latest suicide bombing. As the Monitor went to press, the only indicator of possible action was tank blockades of the Gaza Strip that effectively divided it into three parts. Senior officials, preparing for a meeting of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Cabinet, said Israel would "not wait long" for its response to the attack on a Passover meal in a Netanya hotel late Wednesday that killed at least 21 people and wounded more than 100 others. For its part, Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the attack, said it was only a foretaste of "a wave being prepared" for Israel.
Almost as soon as Arab leaders meeting in Lebanon unanimously adopted a Saudi proposal offering collective recognition of Israel for the first time, the latter rejected it. A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Jerusalem called the plan "a nonstarter" in its present form. But on the final day of the Arab League summit in Beirut, top Saudi diplomat Saud al-Faisal (above, r., conferring with the author of the proposal, Crown Prince Abdullah) said the initiative, which calls for Israel's withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 war, was a "full package" that the Jewish state could not "partially" accept. (Story, page 1; related editorial, page 10.)
In a dramatic attempt at reconciliation, Iraq pledged in writing never to repeat its 1990 military invasion of neighboring Kuwait. The text of the initiative underscores Iraq's "respect for the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity" of the smaller nation, Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told journalists at the Beirut conference. Kuwait's foreign minister said he was "100 percent satisfied" with the initiative. And, in what analysts called a diplomatic coup for the Baghdad government, the summit's final communique "categorically" rejected prospective US military action against Iraq.
The highest-ranking cleric yet implicated in the Roman Catholic Church's spreading sexual misconduct problems resigned his post. Archbishop Juliusz Paetz of Poznan, Poland, a countryman of Pope John Paul II, said his gestures of "kindness and spontaneity" toward young priests had been misinterpreted but that he was leaving "for the good of the church."
The target-shooting enthusiast and supporter of leftist causes arrested for murdering eight city councillors and wounding 19 others in a Paris suburb early Wednesday committed suicide, police said. Richard Durn, who left a 13-page letter explaining his actions, broke free of his guards and leaped from a fourth-floor window. The crime has heightened gun-control and crime as issues in campaigning for France's presidential election next month.