The New York Times leads with, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with, signs that the U.S is, as the NYT puts it, “promising quicker and deeper involvement in searching for a political solution [in the Mideast], perhaps even before violence ends.” In a TV interview, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “The political component of this process has to be brought forward much more quickly than we might have thought.” The Washington Post’s lead says that Israel launched “a massive assault” on Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank and a stronghold of militant groups. The paper says, “Six Palestinians were reported killed, including gunmen and a 30-year-old female doctor.” The Los Angeles Times’ lead emphasizes that Palestinian gunmen are still holed up in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. But they’re not firing and neither are the Israeli troops who have surrounded them. USA Today runs a headline across the top about the U.S.’s Mideast policy shift, but the paper leads with documents it obtained that detail cases of misconduct by four National Guard generals. The paper says that “brings to at least 13 the number of states where the highest-ranking Guard official violated military rules or state or federal laws over the past decade.” USAT has been leading coverage on this issue for months.
The WP’s dispatch from Bethlehem emphasizes that the Israeli Army didn’t allow ambulances on to the streets. (The article’s subhead reads: Wounded Die as Ambulances Are Barred From Bethlehem.)
The Post waits until the 24th paragraph to air Israel’s (less than clear) rebuttal: “A spokesman for the Israeli army said its policy is to restrict movement of ambulances around Manger Square and the approaching roads because of sniper fire. ‘But as soon as they can go, they go,’ he said.” The spokesman also said that ambulances have been used to smuggle weapons and gunmen.
The LAT, WP, and NYT all feature lengthy quotes from the same woman in Bethlehem: She said she stayed in her kitchen with a wounded Palestinian gunman who slowly bled to death while waiting for an ambulance that never came.
The papers note that one ambulance in Bethlehem was allowed to move around for a short time. It arrived back at the hospital with two wounded men stacked on top of three cadavers.
Everybody reports that Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon fired rockets and mortars at Israel again yesterday, wounding one soldier. Israel retaliated with airstrikes and suggested it might also strike Syriantargets, on the theory that Hezbollah wouldn’t attack without Syria’s permission.
The NYT notes that a Palestinian-American woman was shot and killed in the West Bank yesterday, apparently by Israeli soldiers.
The papers notice that for the first time in a week, a day passed without a suicide bombing.
Everybody notes that Israeli riot police broke up a demonstration by hundreds of leftists and Arab-Israelis. The NYT reports, “Among those beaten were three members of the Israeli Parliament.”
The NYT goes inside with a fascinating interview with the leaders of Hamas, the group responsible for last week’s Passover suicide bombing that killed 25 people. The leaders said they used to lock horns with Yasser Arafat. No longer. “We have the same problem now,” said one. “Israel is our enemy.”
Everybody notes that Egypt cut off “official contacts” with Israel. The papers say that it’s largely a symbolic move.
The WP reports that the U.S. wanted to have peace envoy Anthony Zinni visit Arafat at his besieged compound, but Israel refused to grant Zinni access. That ticked off the U.S. “We should be able to see whomever we want to see,” said one official.
The WP mentions a TV interview a top aide to Arafat gave in which he was asked if he had any message for Israelis. “We hate you,” he responded. “The air hates you. The land hates you. The trees hate you. There is no purpose in you staying on this land.”
The NYT’s Bill Safire makes the following contention, “Arik Sharon is the average Palestinian’s last best hope in this generation for a good life in an independent state.”
The WP and LAT front a federal judge’s ruling that the government is not allowed to hold secret deportation hearings, including for people detained in the sweeps connected to Sept. 11th.
The NYT reports that Afghan security officials arrested hundreds of “political opponents” claiming that they were planning a bombing campaign aimed at toppling the government of Hamid Karzai.
The Times is appropriately skeptical: “The roundup seems certain to prompt suspicions that the government fabricated the threat to crush its opponents.” But the paper waits until the 23rd paragraph to say, “A senior advisor [to Karzai] suggested the arrests might have been carried out without his approval.”
The papers stuff news that one of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay looks to be an American; he was born in Louisiana. Authorities are double-checking, but if and when they confirm his citizenship, the man will likely be moved back to the U.S.
The WSJ’s “Politics and Policy” section reports, “The Bush administration has decided to support an Indian challenger to the U.S. scientist who heads an international panel examining climate change, after Exxon Mobil Corp. lobbied against the American.”
The NYT meanwhile goes inside with a story based on the recently released energy docs: Last year, President Bush signed an executive order that “closely resembles a written recommendation given to the administration two months earlier by the American Gas Association.”
USAT’s “Life” section reports that Liza Minnelli is being sued by her 94-year-old stepmother, Lee Minnelli, for elder abuse. According to the suit, “While defendant is honeymooning all over the world, having fed 850 of her closest friends a 12-foot cake, plaintiff is alone in a cold, dark house.”