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Archive for Monday, May 20, 2002

Bombing brings swift retaliation by Israel

May 20, 2002

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— Shortly after Israel security forces were warned of an impending attack, a Palestinian militant disguised as an Israeli soldier slipped Sunday afternoon through several police checkpoints, then walked to a fruit and vegetable market where he blew himself up, killing three bystanders and injuring 58 other people.

The attack on Netanya, the seaside city where 29 were killed by a suicide bomber at a hotel restaurant during a Passover Seder, drew a swift response from Israeli forces, which entered the nearby Palestinian town of Tulkarm Sunday evening. Armored personnel carriers and military jeeps also rolled into Ramallah.

"Anyone who thought that the Palestinian terror campaign against Israelis is over is completely mistaken," David Baker of the Israeli Prime Minister's office said shortly after the blast. "The Palestinian terror campaign continues unabated, as does Israel's battle against terror."

But unlike the previous bombing, which launched the controversial, five-and-a-half week Israeli incursions into virtually all West Bank towns, the military response to this attack was expected to remain limited.

Callers to Arab and Israeli media outlets claiming credit for the attack said they were from two Palestinian opposition groups, the fundamentalist Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In Gaza, political leaders of each group said Sunday night they could not confirm those claims.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat did not immediately comment, but a written Palestinian Authority statement issued on Sunday evening condemned the bombing.

That did not appear to placate attack-weary residents of this town, less than 10 miles from the Palestinian city of Tulkarm that Israeli officials insist is rife with terrorists. About 50 people gathered outside the marketplace chanted "Death to Arafat" in Hebrew hours after the bombing.

After the Passover bombing, the Bush administration renewed demands that Arafat rein in Palestinian militants but acknowledged that he may not succeed. "I think there clearly is a class of bombings that he can't" rein in, Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday following the attack. He cited militant groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, which he said have indicated "they're prepared to do everything they can to destroy the peace process."

Eyewitnesses said the suicide bomber stepped out of a taxi and walked a half block into the market entrance just before the 4:20 p.m. (8:20 a.m. CDT) explosion .

Police were searching for the taxi driver Sunday night.

One person died at the scene, and another two died later at a hospital.

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