Suicide bomb kills 3 Israelis

68 people wounded in rush-hour attack in coastal Netanya

Outcry pressures Sharon

Mounting violence could prompt army to enter Arab areas

March 05, 2001|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

NETANYA, Israel - A Palestinian set off a bomb at a crowded intersection in this coastal city yesterday, killing himself and three Israelis and providing Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon with added incentive to adopt tough new measures to quell the five-month guerrilla war.

Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who will be Sharon's defense minister, said the incoming government would take a "clear and consistent line" to "eradicate acts of terror" by focusing on "those who carry out attacks and those who send them."

He did not spell out tactics, but others likely to play a role in the new government suggested sending the Israeli army for brief periods back into West Bank territories now under Palestinian control and strikes against the terrorists' "infrastructure."

"There are many ways to do it," said Silvan Shalom, who is expected to be a Cabinet minister under Sharon.

The rush-hour attack - Sunday is a workday in Israel - left 68 wounded, wrecked vendors' stalls, shattered storefront windows and scattered body parts on the street and sidewalks.

Killed in the blast were Naftali Dean, 84, of Tel Mond, and two Israeli women, Yevgania Malkin, 70, and Shulamit Ziv, 58, both of Netanya. The Palestinian bomber was not immediately identified.

The blast capped a weekend of mounting Israeli-Palestinian violence that also claimed civilian lives on the Palestinian side, including a 9-year-old boy inside his apartment and a 43-year-old mother walking home in the West Bank town of El-Bireh, north of Jerusalem.

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, but commentators pointed to threats from the military wing of Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, to carry out 10 suicide attacks in Israel once Sharon's government is installed.

The new government could take office this week. Having brought in the Labor Party, Sharon has reached a coalition agreement with Shas, the powerful movement of ultra-Orthodox Middle Eastern Jews, and was negotiating last night with Israel B'Aliyah, the party of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

The bomber was standing at a crosswalk when he set off explosives in a bag he was carrying. Some witnesses said he tried to board a bus, but the driver refused to let him. Others said he might have intended to plant the bomb and not kill himself but set it off after seeing police rush to check a suspicious-looking bicycle.

Hearing the explosion, which shook buildings, Ami Heller, 40, left his furniture store.

"I looked and saw dead people - one head, half a body, arms, legs, pieces of flesh on the roof," he said.

It was the third bomb attack in Israel in the past month and the third in Netanya in two years.

Bosmat Gillam, 14, who witnessed a bombing in Netanya a few months ago, was among the injured yesterday.

"I was passing by a gas station and heard the blast, cupped my ears, felt my feet trembling, looked around and saw a lot of blood," she told Israel Television.

Arabs at the scene fled in fear of reprisals, but one man couldn't move fast enough. An angry mob chased him, forced him to the ground and kicked him, inflicting severe head injuries.

"I saw an Arab running. Jews attacked him - at first two or three, then 30, kicking and hitting him. He couldn't do anything. He was like dead near this car," Nicolai Shmilov said in a broadcast interview.

"A police force that arrived swiftly at the scene managed to prevent a lynching, ... even though one Arab was seriously wounded and taken to hospital," the local police chief, Aharon Franco, told Israel Radio.

Later, supporters of the outlawed extreme-right Kach movement gathered at the scene, chanting praise for Baruch Goldstein, the Jewish gunman who massacred 29 Palestinian worshipers in a Hebron mosque in 1994.

The cries for retaliation add to growing pressure on the Sharon government to find more effective ways to combat terror. Israeli army officials contend that, far from trying to prevent attacks, even Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's elite security force is now engaged in violence against Israelis.

Rehavam Zeevi, the leader of the far-right National Union Party who is likely to join the government, urged sending soldiers into "any target on the board," including major West Bank towns such as Nablus and Qalqilya, and "pulling out the lice."

"Those who kill Jews come from there, and their safe places are there," he said.

Such comments illustrate the challenge facing incoming Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Ben-Eliezer and other members of the new government from the center-left Labor Party in trying to moderate the policies of Sharon's rightist government.

While he supports going after terrorists, Ben-Eliezer said, he wants to "reduce as much as possible the collective punishment of the Palestinian population."

Reacting to calls for the Israeli army to re-enter areas under Palestinian control, Peres said: "I don't support it. It doesn't help."

Meanwhile, the Palestinian human rights group LAW reported last night that seven Palestinians had been killed in the previous 48 hours.

In El Bireh, two were killed by gunfire apparently from the nearby Jewish settlement of Psagot, which is heavily guarded by Israeli troops.

Obai Darraj, 9, was watching his father paint their new apartment Friday, when a bullet entered the window and killed him. Ida Daoud Musa, 43, was returning home from purchasing gifts for her children for the coming Muslim Feast of Sacrifice when she was shot near a school.

The army has not begun an investigation into either incident. In both cases, a spokesman said, Palestinians fired the first shots.

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