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Archive for Friday, October 27, 2000

Mideast violence hits new level

Suicide bombing raises fears of more attacks

October 27, 2000

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— A Palestinian with a backpack of explosives blew himself up Thursday as his bicycle reached the concrete barrier of an Israeli army outpost, heightening fears that Israel could face a renewed wave of bombings.

The militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack by the 24-year-old in the Gaza Strip, the first suicide bombing during a month of upheaval. Israel responded by blocking the main road in Gaza with a tank and bulldozing trees that Palestinians could use for cover to fire on the isolated base.

The diplomatic front appeared bleak, with Israel and the Palestinians giving a cool response to President Clinton's proposal of Washington meetings aimed at ending the violence. Street clashes broke out again in the West Bank and Gaza, and both sides maintained their hostile rhetoric.

"First of all the Palestinians must stop the violence," said Danny Yatom, Prime Minister Ehud Barak's top adviser. "We can't accept the violence as it is today."

Palestinian leaders said the United States could no longer be the sole mediator, calling for the European Union, Russia and others to join future talks.

A 14-year-old Palestinian boy died of a gunshot wound to the head suffered two weeks earlier, but no deaths were reported in Thursday's clashes. In four weeks of fighting, 129 people have been killed, all but a few of them Palestinians.

The suicide bombing pointed to an escalation in the conflict and added to Israeli concerns that a bombing campaign may be unleashed following the Palestinians' release of 85 militants from jail two weeks ago. The Palestinians say they have re-arrested 22 people.

"We've been warning that these kind of attacks were in the works," said army spokesman Col. Raanan Gissin.

The bomber, identified as Nabil Araeer, pedaled his bicycle to the Israeli post until he reached the massive concrete blocks of the retaining wall. He then detonated several pounds of explosives in his backpack, the army said.

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