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Sharon Wins, Mideast Slides Toward War

Ariel Sharon has become the new Prime Minister of Israel after a landslide win in the election today. Palestinian leaders have pledged to work with him toward peace, but there is pessimism that the peace process will continue in any meaningful way.

Palestinians said that Tuesday would be a "day of rage." There were clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli soldiers at Ramallah. The Israel Defense Force sealed off the Palestinian territories and deployed 15,000 troops.

A U.S. Army brigade equipped with Patriot anti-aircraft missiles has arrived in Israel and is preparing for what officials claim is a military exercise that will last 14 days.

The Patriot system has improved since the Gulf War, but defense sources have said that it is too slow to intercept more advanced missiles being developed in Egypt, Syria and Iran.

Meanwhile, there has been military movement in Israel, Iraq and Lebanon. The Israeli and Syrian armies are on full alert. In Lebanon, the Hezbollah has moved short-range rockets to an area near Israel's border. These rockets are capable of striking the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Israelhas deployed tanks and strengthened border patrols.

Hezbollah deputy chief Naim Kassem said they are ready to strike. The U.S. has asked the government of Syria not to cooperate with them.

Iraq continues to bolster its forces near the Syrian and Jordanian borders. They appear to we working in conjunction with Syrian forces.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that he does not want to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Clinton tried desperately to broker peace in the Middle East, but was unable to succeed before he leftoffice. Will we allow Israel to be attacked by its Arab neighbors or will we intervene, thereby escalating the conflict into a full-fledged war and alienating our oil-producing allies?

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