Police officer killed in suicide bombing

Israeli official uses attack to argue against call for Palestinian statehood

September 19, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

UMM EL-FAHM, Israel - In the first suicide bombing in more than six weeks, a Palestinian blew himself up as police officers approached him while he apparently was waiting to board a bus, killing one officer and wounding at least three other people.

The attack followed the shooting death of an Israeli while he was driving in the northern West Bank. Israel Radio said Fatah, the dominant Palestinian movement, claimed responsibility for the shooting.

There was no immediate indication of who was behind the suicide bombing.

The suicide bombing was the first such attack inside Israel since Aug. 4, though Israeli government and army officials have argued that the lull was the result of their continuing military operations in the West Bank and Gaza, not a slackening in efforts by Palestinian militants.

Zalman Shoval, a senior foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, used the two attacks as a point of argument against the communique issued at the United Nations on Tuesday by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and senior representatives of the European Union, in which they set out a conditional timetable for the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

The officials met as the "Quartet," an unofficial grouping of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia that has tried to work out common policies for the Middle East. In their communique, the officials essentially endorsed President Bush's proposal to work first toward greater Palestinian democracy, then toward a provisional Palestinian state, and then toward full statehood.

Among other things, the Quartet called on Israel to withdraw from the areas it has occupied since the current violence broke out two years ago in the first stage of the process.

The government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has had no official reaction to the Quartet communique, and it received no attention yesterday in the Israeli media, which focused largely on Iraq. But Shoval, evidently reflecting an irritation in the government with the document, noted the attacks of yesterday and said, "The good intentions of the Quartet, which I do not question, are based on certain expectations and suppositions which are extremely doubtful at this time, namely, the end of terror."

Though a growing number of moderate Palestinians have demanded an end to suicide bombings inside Israel, most of them have argued that attacks against soldiers and against settlers in the West Bank and Gaza are a legitimate resistance to military occupation.

According to witnesses in Umm el-Fahm, police in the area got a call at 4:50 p.m. that a suspicious person was at the bus stop. A police car arrived within minutes, and as a policeman opened his right-hand door, the bomber blew up. The policeman was killed on the spot, and a man who was also at the bus stop was seriously wounded.

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