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Israel Retaliates for Bomb Blast With Air Raid

Friday, 18 May 2001 12:00 AM

Israel has used helicopter gunships in the past to attack targets in the territories, but fighter planes carry much bigger and more devastating loads.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said 10 people were killed in the air raids and 64 were injured.

The Palestinian bombing in Netania killed at least five people, in addition to the suicide bomber, while 110 people, including children, required medical treatment, police said.

The Palestinian Islamic Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, announcing it in Ramallah. The Hezbollah-run Al Manar television station in Lebanon identified the bomber as Mahmoud Ahmed Marmash, 20, of the West Bank town of Tul Karem, some 10 miles east of the site of the explosion.

The Israelis nevertheless blamed the Palestinian Authority for the surge in violence.

The blame "is not just with (Hamas leader) Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. It lies first and foremost with (Palestinian Authority President ) Yasser Arafat who allows these actions and even encourages them," Israeli Minister Danny Naveh said in a TV interview.

Arafat's secretary, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, issued a statement condemning all attacks on innocent Palestinians and Israelis, and calling for a return to the negotiating table.

Abdel Rahim said the Palestinian Authority proved its desire for peace when it accepted the Jordanian-Egyptian peace initiative and the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee report. The Mitchell draft report calls for a "100 percent" Palestinian Authority effort to prevent terrorist operations and to punish perpetrators."

Naveh maintained, "There is no cover for these expressions of regret. There is no distinction between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and elements connected with Yasser Arafat. ... He encourages, directs and tries to get political and diplomatic gains through terror."

The bomb in Netania exploded at 11:30 a.m. Lior Kamisa, a guard at the entrance to the busy Hasharon shopping mall, suspected something was amiss when the bomber appeared on a warm day in an oversized, bulging blue jacket. By then several people had phoned police to report the suspect and a woman went to Kamisa and warned him.

Kamisa said the bomber "looked me in the eye, saw I identified him and (he) disappeared, evaporated, blew up in my face. Fire and smoke was flying in my direction. I felt the fire, the heat and the (shattered) glass in my face."

Apparently the bomber carried the explosives on his back and that saved the guard, who was slightly injured.

Netania, once a favored tourist resort, has been a target for attackers. Mayor Miriam Fireberg said that this year there have been four attacks there while three more were foiled.

"The residents here are very angry," Fireberg told Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a telephone conversation. "Just as they (the terrorists) disrupt peace and tranquility in Netania today, (Israel) should do the same on the other side. It can't be that they will sit even one minute in peace if we have no quiet on our side," she added.

The mayor would not say how Sharon responded, but Sharon's spokesman later blamed the attack on "a venomous campaign of incitement waged by the Palestinian Authority against Israel."

In Washington, President George W. Bush interrupted an Oval Office meeting to say the suicide bombing represents a "new level of intensity" in Middle East violence.

"It's essential that the leaders in the Middle East speak out clearly against violence," Bush said, adding that "we must break this cycle of violence."

Meanwhile gunmen in the West Bank shot and killed an Israeli officer driving a private car near the settlement of Neve Tsuf, and seriously injured the officer's mother who had been with him, the IDF spokesman reported.

The first F-16 attacks were directed at a jail in Nablus and at a building that belongs to Arafat's elite Force 17 in Ramallah. Nine jailers were reportedly killed in Nablus and a Force 17 man died in Ramallah.

Later F-16s and combat helicopters attacked a Palestinian camp in Gaza City close to Arafat's office, a Palestinian Navy and Force 17 base at Sudaniya and another Force 17 installation in Tul Karem, the suicide bomber's home town.

Palestinian radio also reported that Israeli soldiers at a guard post in the Gaza Strip fired on a group of children playing football, wounding five, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.

The Israeli authorities also prevented Palestinian cabinet ministers who live in the West Bank from entering the Gaza Strip for a meeting Arafat summoned.

Local Governance Minister Saeb Erakat told United Press International he was turned back at the Erez Crossing from Israel to Gaza. A spokesman for the Israeli coordinator of government activities in the territories confirmed the ban.

Arafat's spokesman Nabil Aburdeneh called for intervention by the United States and other countries. "We're shouting and they are keeping silent," he told UPI.

In a skirmish on the Lebanese front, an Israeli soldier fired at a Lebanese man who allegedly tried to damage the border fence near the northernmost town of Metullah.

The IDF spokesman said several people had rioted, tried to tear the fence down, ignored warning shots and a military force fired at one of the people's legs. Reports from Lebanon said the man was killed.

-- Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved. --

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Israel has used helicopter gunships in the past to attack targets in the territories, but fighter planes carry much bigger and more devastating loads. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said 10 people were killed in the air raids and 64 were injured. The...
Friday, 18 May 2001 12:00 AM
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