Israel has assassinated the Palestinian Observer to the Model UN in a missile strike late last night, local authorities have confirmed.
Ohio State Troopers say that a 1992 Toyota Camry belonging to Ball State University junior and Palestinian model-UN observer Jeffrey Browning was struck by an air-to-ground missile yesterday evening. Browning and two friends were believed to be travelling from Muncie, Indiana, to a model UN conference in New York City. Witnesses reported seeing two Israeli helicopter gun ships circling the area shortly before the incident occurred.
The assassination was the latest in a series of Israeli "targeted actions" designed to kill or incapacitate leaders of the Palestinian resistance movement. On April 18, Israeli armed forces killed Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi in a similar missile strike.
In a prepared statement, Israeli Army minister Gideon Levy defended the latest killing. "We believe that Jeffrey Browning was at the head of a major wing of the model Palestinian movement. He was behind scores of re-enacted suicide bombings that led to hundreds of virtual casualties," Levy said. "We are prepared to show Palestinian agitators that we can strike anywhere, at anytime-including the stretch of I-70 between Columbus and Pittsburgh."
But friends painted the 20-year-old political science major as a moderate who hoped to forge an enduring peace with model UN Israeli delegate Nora Christiansen of St. Olaf College in Minnesota. "He always dreamed that his imaginary Palestinian people could someday live side-by-side with the virtual Israelis," recalls Shelly Peterson, a Ball State communications major and friend of Browning's. "He understood that it was probably unrealistic, but he was committed to finding ways they could put their make-believe hate aside."
Observers say that Browning's assassination will likely have a chilling effect on Model UN negotiations now underway in New York City. "While Browning was not a full delegate to the model UN, he certainly had support, especially within the model Arab states," says Michael Roth, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. "If these killings continue, Israel could risk further isolation from the mock-international community," Roth warns.
Already, several imaginary Arab states have expressed outrage at the killings. "How can we tolerate the deaths of our Muslim brothers?" model-Syrian delegate, Shelly Nordquest--a marketing major from Florida State University--asked members of the mock-Islamic Educational and Cultural Organization. "This action cries out for vengeance!"
President George W. Bush was quick to throw his support behind the Israeli government. "While we are deeply saddened by the death of Mr. Browning, we respect the Israeli people's right to defend themselves against terror" Bush said in a morning news conference. "I pray that peace will soon come to the Midwest."