SUICIDE BOMBINGS IN ISRAEL AND SYRIA'S HARBORING OF HAMAS -- (House of Representatives - September 08, 2004)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to express my condolences to the families of the victims of the suicide bombings in Israel last week and to urge my colleagues to support Israel's continued construction of the security fence to protect their citizens from further terrorist attacks. I also ask my colleagues to join with me in calling on the Syrian Government to turn over the leaders of Hamas, the terrorist organization that has claimed responsibility for these and countless other attacks in Israel, currently operating in Damascus.
Mr. Speaker, last Tuesday, two buses were simultaneously bombed in Beersheba, a city in southern Israel, killing 16 passengers and injuring 97 others. It is no coincidence that the city chosen by Hamas for the attacks is in a region of Israel that is not yet protected by the security fence. Hamas terrorists were dissuaded by the fence and an Israeli military presence in other areas and opted for an easier and more vulnerable target in Beersheba. These attacks are further proof that continued construction of the security fence is necessary for the protection of Israeli citizens.
Mr. Speaker, the security fence is doing exactly what it was designed to do: save lives. Since the fence's construction, there has been a dramatic decline in the number of suicide attacks. This was the first suicide attack in Israel in 5 months. There have been only nine suicide attacks in Israel this year, down from 23 last year. While even one attack is clearly too many, the fence is clearly making a difference.
For those in the international community who questioned the route of the fence, the Israeli Government has stated that the fence is temporary and can be moved or rerouted contingent on future peace agreements. Furthermore, the Israeli Government has also proven its willingness to reroute the fence. When the Israeli Supreme Court declared early this year that a section of the fence impeded on the civil rights of Palestinians living in the area, the fence was, in fact, moved.
Mr. Speaker, I have spoken on several occasions here on the House floor of my visit to Israel last year and my opportunity to view the security fence firsthand. After my visit, I believe very strongly that we need to support Israel's right to protect their citizens. This fence provides a sense of security to border families and to outerlying cities like Beersheba that remain unprotected. The fence will help prevent continued attempts to derail the peace process through violence.
Mr. Speaker, another point that I want to mention that is related to the terrible attacks in Beersheba is the issue of Syria's decision to continue to turn a blind eye to Hamas and other terrorist organizations that operate within their borders. I ask my colleagues to join with me in calling on the Syrian Government to immediately turn over the leaders of Hamas to the Israeli Government for their responsibility in last week's attacks.
I fully support continued U.S. sanctions against Syria provided for under the Syria Accountability Act. If we are serious about achieving lasting peace in the region, we cannot allow Syria to continue to play host to Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups.