JERUSALEM Ñ Israel has pledged to maintain restraint in wake of a
suicide bombing on a crowded bus that killed 15 people.
But Palestinian sources said 11 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli
military operation in the Gaza Strip hours after the Hamas suicide attack in
the northern city of Haifa.
Israeli officials said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon relayed a pledge to
the United States that Israel would not launch a massive retaliation for the
suicide bombing on Wednesday. They said Sharon told the Bush administration
that an Israeli response would not derail the U.S. buildup against Iraq.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened his senior ministers on late
Wednesday and agreed to continue Israel's current counter-insurgency policy
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Officials said none of the ministers
proposed the expulsion of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat or of
"If the question is what is more important: expelling Yasser Arafat or
the war against Iraq, it is clear that Iraq is more important,"
Transportation Minister Avigdor Lieberman said. "Arafat can wait."
Palestinian sources said an Israeli military force that included attack
helicopters and tanks raided the Jabalya refugee camp north of Gaza City
overnight Thursday. The sources said 11 Palestinians were killed and 100
were injured in the Israeli operation.
Eight of the Palestinians were killed when an Israeli tank fired a shell
toward a building at the end of the operation, the sources said.
A senior Israeli military officer said tanks fired three shells during
the Jabalya operation. He said one of the shells targeted a Palestinian
gunner who had aimed an anti-armor rocket-propelled grenade toward the
Earlier, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on a crowded bus
in Haifa, killing 15 people and injuring about 60 others. It was the first
suicide bombing in Israel in two months. Officials said security authorities
had been on alert for weeks for a Palestinian suicide attack.
After several hours of silence, Hamas claimed responsibility for the
attack. Israeli authorities identified the suicide bomber as Mahmoud
Qawasmeh, a university student and a Hamas member from the Hebron area.
A Hamas spokesman warned that suicide attacks would continue. The
spokesman said the bombing was a message to the new government of Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon.
"The operation is an achievement for the Palestinian people and a
message to the Israeli enemy that the uprising will continue," Hamas
spokesman Ismail Haniya said. "It is also a message to the Arab and Islamic
summits that the Palestinians need real support, not resolutions."