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ASSASSINATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST : Blood on the Road to Peace

November 05, 1995

In the tortured history of the modern Middle East, leaders who push for peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Arabs have long been at risk. Before Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was shot and killed Saturday, three others who spoke for coexistence had been felled by nationalist assassins:

* Count Folke Bernadotte, a Swedish diplomat and member of the Swedish royal family, was appointed U.N. mediator in Palestine on May 20, 1948. Bernadotte insisted that Arab refugees be allowed to return to their homes in Israel. He was machine-gunned to death Sept. 17 by three members of the Jewish terrorist Stern Gang.

* King Abdullah ibn Hussein, the first king of independent Jordan, was the only Arab leader prepared to accept the United Nations' partitioning of Palestine in 1947. In the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, his forces seized Old Jerusalem and the West Bank of the Jordan River. Defying his fellow Arabs, who favored an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank, Abdullah formally annexed the territory in 1951. A lone Palestinian nationalist killed him with a pistol on July 20.

* President Anwar Sadat of Egypt stunned the Arab world in 1977 by breaking ranks with his neighbors and visiting Israel to offer peace to the Knesset, Israel's parliament. In 1979, that overture led to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the Jewish state's first with an Arab nation. But at home, Sadat suppressed growing anger over the pact and a declining economy. On Oct. 6, 1981, as he watched a military parade, Sadat was shot to death by Islamic extremists who stormed his reviewing box.

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