Man blows himself up at Israeli bus stop

Intelligence officials warn of possible new wave of suicide bombings

May 21, 2002|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

JERUSALEM - Israeli authorities braced for more terrorist attacks after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a bus stop yesterday in northern Israel.

The day before, a suicide bomber had struck a market in Netanya and killed three Israelis. The back-to-back bombings ended a 12-day lull in attacks in Israel.

Israeli intelligence officials warned Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the attacks could be the start of new wave of suicide bombings, acknowledging that the Israel Defense Forces' recent six-week sweep through Palestinian territories could not be 100 percent effective.

"The security forces have been successful in preventing terror attacks, but it's impossible to prevent every single one," said Israeli police commissioner Shlomo Ahonishky.

Israeli security officials said more attacks could be prevented if the government built a fence or wall around the West Bank border, separating it from Israel.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat scoffed at that idea and said the way to stop the violence was by resuming peace talks, which Israel refuses to do until the attacks stop.

Israeli authorities, meanwhile, denied any responsibility for a car bombing yesterday in Beirut, the capital of neighboring Lebanon, that killed Jihad Jibril, a commander of the radical Palestinian group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

Jihad Jibril was the son of Ahmed Jibril, the founder and leader of the PFLP-GC, which has long opposed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Group members blamed Israel for the bombing.

Jihad, 38, was driving his Peugeot sedan down a street off the busy Corniche Mazraa commercial district in west Beirut when the bomb exploded at midday, Lebanese police said.

In Israel, yesterday's suicide bombing occurred in the morning near the Ta'anachim road junction in northern Israel.

Border police officers had approached the man at the bus stop after passengers reported a suspicious man trying to board a private bus that was picking up workers who were going to a nearby factory.

Israeli police said that when the two officers approached, the man blew himself up.

"We spoke to him and asked him who he was," officer Nayef Ghanem told Israel Army Radio. "He began to move back and then exploded."

Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a different group from PFLP-GC, claimed responsibility for Sunday's bombing at a fruit and vegetable market in Netanya.

Israeli officials blamed PFLP leader Ahmed Saadar for the attack, saying Saadar, who is confined under U.S. and British supervision in a Jericho prison, might have coordinated the bombing via cell phone.

Sunday's attack killed a cook who had survived a suicide bombing in March.

Arkady Vieselman, a 39-year-old Russian immigrant, died when a bomber disguised as an Israeli soldier detonated himself at a market a few blocks from the Park Hotel.

That establishment had been the site of a suicide bombing March 27 that killed 29 people the first night of Passover - the deadliest so far.

Sunday's suicide bombing was the 12th in two years in Netanya, a seaside resort community 12 miles north of Tel Aviv and eight miles from the West Bank village of Tulkarm, one of the most militant in the Palestinian territories.

While Palestinians waited for possible military retaliation, Israeli military officials suggested that their response would be aimed at specific "terrorist centers or individuals."

Hours after Sunday's bombing, Israeli soldiers raided Tulkarm and arrested several suspected terrorists.

Israeli armored vehicles also entered the West Bank city of Ramallah, where Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat maintains his compound, after shots allegedly were fired Sunday at an Israeli motorist traveling to a nearby settlement.

The driver was unhurt.

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