ICEJ NEWS - 01/25/2002
Palestinian terrorists were back on the warpath on Friday, as a suicide bomber targeted a crowded Tel Aviv pedestrian mall, wounding 22 Israelis, while rockets slammed into the Erez crossing into northern Gaza.
A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a busy pedestrian mall Friday afternoon near Tel Aviv's old central bus station, wounding 22, three seriously. So far, the only death is that of the bomber. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.
The explosion occurred at the busy corner of Neve Sha'anan and Petah Tikva streets in south Tel Aviv. A scooter near the site of the explosion went up in flames, causing police to suspect the man used it to carry out the attack.
Israeli police arrested two Palestinians from Nablus and Hebron in connection with the attack. Police also found a Kalashnikov rifle near the location of the explosion and six cartridges, which were probably intended to be used at the same time of the explosion.
Late this evening, Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer stated that a Palestinian was arrested at scene of the attack with the Kalashnikov rifle in hand.
Witnesses on the pedestrian mall said that a man on a motorcycle asked a passerby, "Is this Neve Sha'anan Street?" Seconds after being told that it was, he detonated his charge.
Tel Aviv District Police Commander Yossi Sedbon said that serious warnings on terror attacks inside Israel were received in the past few days. The entire Sharon coastal plain [from the Tel Aviv area north to Hadera] was placed on a high terror alert Friday, with security reinforced in major cities and along the Green Line with Judea/Samaria.
The Israeli government said it was holding PLO chief Yasser Arafat responsible for the bomb attack, saying the Palestinian Authority leader has done nothing to stop militants and that he condones violence against Israel. "They (the Palestinians) are wielding a coalition of terror, where there is no different between Arafat and his forces, and the other radical elements," said Danny Ayalon, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Later Friday, Palestinians fired three "Kassam-1" rockets, with an estimated range of four kilometers, at the Erez checkpoint along the northern Gaza border.
Both attacks today bear the fingerprints of Hamas, which threatened earlier this week to wage "all-out war" with Israel. Suicide bombings have been a Hamas specialty for years, and a top leader of the militant Islamic faction based in Damascus, Moussa Abu Marzook, told CBS News recently that they were developing rockets with ranges of up to ten kilometers, capable of hitting most Israeli cities from Palestinian areas. Hamas claimed credit for the rocket attack later today.
Hamas had agreed to temporarily scale back its terrorist activitites in mid-December when Arafat came under enormous international pressure to curb Palestinian violence. But beneath the illusion of quiet, Israel claimed Palestinian terrorists were simply using the time to regroup and rearm themselves. Israel's seizure of the 50-ton shipment of Iranian weapons aboard the PA-owned vessel "Karine A" and a fresh wave of terror attacks indicate their assessment was accurate.
Hamas broke the sense of calm early this month by inflitrating an IDF outpost near the Gaza border and killing four Israeli Arab soldiers. Then the "al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades," a militia linked to Arafat's Fatah movement, staged a series of suicide shooting sprees, killing six guests at a bat mitzvah party in Hadera and two elderly women in downtown Jerusalem, among other attacks.
Israeli security forces, meanwhile, have renewed their incusions into PA-ruled areas to arrest terrorists and have killed several leading operatives of Hamas and the Fatah militia. In recent days, Fatah apparently felt it had drawn enough blood in revenge for the still-unexplained death of a militia comammander in Tulkarm, and said they would now abide by Arafat's ceasefire.
But Hamas vowed this week to escalate their war against Israel, after four of their members, including two top bombmakers, were killed in an IDF raid on their main explosives factory in Nablus.
On Thursday night, the IDF also targeted a senior Hamas military commander in Khan Yunis. Adali Baker Hamdan, 27, was believed to be behind the attack on the IDF's "Africa" outpost near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom on January 9, in which the four Arab soldiers were killed. The day after the "Africa" attack, Hamdan was detained by PA security forces. He was released despite being found in possession of a weapon.
Palestinian sources said Israeli helicopters fired two missiles at the car in which Hamdan had been traveling. Hamdan was killed instantly. Two other Hamas members in the car were seriously injured in the strike.
An IDF spokesman confirmed last night that Israel had targeted Hamdan. In a statement, the spokesman said that Hamdan had been the commander of Hamas's military wing in Khan Yunis and had been directly responsible for dozens of terror attacks carried out in the Gaza Strip in recent months. "Hamdan was killed while preparing to carry out a powerful terror strike in the Strip," the IDF spokesman said.
Hamdan had a hand in an incident last July in which an IDF soldier was injured in an explosion, various shooting incidents, the laying of explosive devices and the firing and manufacturing of mortars in the area of Khan Yunis.
Meanwhile, two Palestinians killed by IDF gunfire yesterday near Ganei Tal in the southern Gaza Strip were Hamas operatives from Khan Yunis, Palestinian sources said. They were trying infiltrate a Gush Katif community and an IDF tank fired rockets at them. The IDF said they were on their way to carry out a terror attack in the settlement.
In a separate incident, two wanted terrorists arrested by IDF troops overnight near Kafr Taluza were also members of Hamas's military wing, Izzadin Kassam, Israel Radio reported. IDF troops also arrested two Palestinians in the Sinjil village near Ramallah.
Elsewhere, an IDF soldier was lightly wounded Friday afternoon when his patrol was fired upon by Palestinian gunmen at Kafr Seida near Tulkarm.
Finally, Palestinians fired fragmentary grenades at IDF troops in the Neve Dekalim area of the Gaza Strip this evening, as the violent intifada rages on.
ICEJ. Used with Permission.