Everybody leads with the Middle East. The New York Times and USA Today focus on the Israeli Prime Minister's offer to give Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "a one-way ticket" out of the West Bank. USAT notes that when an interviewer asked Arafat what he'd prefer to do, he responded, "Martyr! Martyr! Martyr!" The Washington Post emphasizes, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with Israel's invasion of more West Bank towns, including Bethlehem. The papers' leads all mention that Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon launched two missiles at military targets in northern Israel; they didn't injure anybody. Israel retaliated with airstrikes. The Los Angeles Times focuses on a deal brokered by "U.S. officials," whereby most of the 400 Palestinians trapped in the now-battered compound of West Bank security chief Jibril Rajoub surrendered to Israeli forces. (The NYT and WP both say the CIA was responsible for the agreement.)
According to the LAT, "Unlike in some other surrenders during Israel's massive military campaign across the West Bank, no one was reported killed."
The WP calls Hezbollah's missile strike "the first such attack inside Israel since Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000." Everybody notes the strike means that Israel may soon have a second front to deal with.
The papers all mention that Palestinian gunmen as well as civilians are holed up in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, which was built on what many consider to be the birthplace of Jesus.
The papers report that a suicide bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint in the West Bank. The LAT doesn't say if anybody else was injured. USAT and the NYT are clearer, saying that the attacker was blown up (and nobody else was injured) when an Israeli soldier shot him and detonated his explosives.
The WP's lead notes up high that Israeli troops have not carried out operations in the Gaza Strip. The NYT, in an inside article focused on Gaza, explains that Israel has stayed away from Gaza because nearly all the recent suicide bombers have been from the West Bank. Why is that? "There is a fence," says an official quoted by the Times. "Attackers cannot easily get out and enter Israel."
The Post spends a number of paragraphs recounting what appear to have been killings of civilians by Israeli soldiers. In one instance, "Palestinians said a 64-year-old woman and her 38-year-old son died after they were shot by Israeli soldiers in Bethlehem. They bled to death, unable to reach the hospital because no vehicles were allowed to move on the streets."
The LAT says 13 Palestinians died yesterday in the West Bank, including seven in "heavy fighting" in Bethlehem. The paper also says that Israel has detained about 700 Palestinian men since Friday.
The papers mention the Israeli Army's release of papers it says it found in Arafat's compound tying the Palestinian Authority to terrorism. One document, labeled "Financial Report," was written on "Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade" letterhead and was addressed to one of the Palestinian Authority's top officials. It reads, in part, ""We need about 5-9 bombs a week for our cells in various areas—5000 Shekels x 4 weeks=20,000 Shekels."
The LAT notes, "Israel offered no evidence that the money was given."
A Palestinian Authority spokesman said the document was an Israeli forgery.
So far as Today's Papers can tell, none of the papers' Web sites offer an image of the document, which might have interested readers, especially since they'd then see that the letterhead, oddly, is in English.
The WP chimes in with a stale news analysis saying that the Mideast crisis complicates the president's "good-vs.-evil approach" to terrorism.
The LAT has a fresher angle. Its news analysis says that conservatives have been slamming the administration for what some have labeled its "moral confusion." What needs to be done, they say, is for the White House to its drop the peace efforts and instead throw its weight fully behind Israel.
The NYT completes the news analysis trifecta, suggesting that the White House's current Mideast policy may not even really qualify as such. "There's less here than meets the eye," said one administration official.
The WP and LAT stuff word that in the recent raid that captured a high-ranking al-Qaida leader, officials also nabbed documents and computers that could help "lead to other al-Qaida leaders and disrupt planned future terrorist attacks." (WP)
The NYT fronts Pakistani President Musharraf's visit to Afghanistan and his statement that he doesn't think the U.S. should mount "hot pursuit raids" into Pakistan. While the Times says Musharraf "rejected any future" hot-pursuit operation, the LAT isn't quite so sure. It simply reports that Musharraf's position was that the U.S. doesn't "need" (LAT) to cross the border and hasn't yet requested to do so.
In a frontpage piece, the NYT points out that while Bush has snubbed environmentalists around the country, he's been a veritable John Muir in Florida. Why? Because green politics plays big in the Sunshine State and Bush wants 1) to be re-elected 2) to have his brother re-elected too. The Times is right to point out the differences in policy, but the paper also makes it sound like there's something nefarious about Bush's Florida strategy. For example, it grills an Interior Department spokesman who "acknowledged" that local politics played a part in the president's policies. But what's so wrong with that? Isn't trying to please voters a useful part of something called democracy?