Israel on new alert for suicide attacks

Special to World
Monday, November 3, 2003

JERUSALEM Israeli authorities have declared a new alert for Palestinian suicide attacks.

Officials said Israel's military and security agencies have received information that point to the infiltration of a suicide bomber from the West Bank into Israel. They said the information reports plans by such groups as Hamas and Islamic Jihad to send suicide bombers from the northern West Bank to the Tel Aviv area.

On Monday, police and security forces were reinforced along the Israeli areas adjacent to the West Bank cities of Kalkilya and Tulkarm. Two key roads from the Israeli Arab city of Kfar Kassem were closed in an attempt to prevent infiltration of suicide bombers.

By noon, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up near an armored Israeli military vehicle outside Kalkilya. One soldier was slightly hurt and the Fatah-dominated Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility. The suicide bomber was identified as a 17-year-old male from the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

This was the second time in less than a week that authorities have been warning of the prospect of an imminent suicide attack. Officials said that Israeli intelligence agencies have received 45 alerts of an attack.

Last week, the Israel Security Agency was said to have warned against easing restrictions on Palestinian labor in Israel. Officials said the agency was concerned that Palestinian insurgency groups would exploit the lifting of restrictions to send suicide bombers in the Jewish state.

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At the same time, Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs have increased contacts in what Israeli and Palestinian sources said appears to be an attempt to arrange a ceasefire in the more than three-year-old Israeli-Palestinian war. On Monday, the PA-owned Al Ayyam daily and Israeli military sources reported that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz met PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad. Mofaz was scheduled to meet next week in Washington with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The newspaper also said ISA director Avi Dichter met PA National Security Adviser Jibil Rajoub.

In Ramallah, the Fatah Central Council was scheduled to convene later on Monday to decide who will be the interior minister in the government of Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei. Qurei wants Gen. Nasser Yusef to be named, but PA Chairman Yasser Arafat opposes this appointment.

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