Israel closes West Bank after 3 weekend bombings kill 9

Special to World
Monday, May 19, 2003

JERUSALEM Israel has closed the West Bank amid a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings.

Officials said Palestinian insurgents have been planning daily suicide attacks from the West Bank in which bombers would be dressed as Orthodox Jews. They said Hamas used this method in three suicide attacks over the weekend in which nine Israelis were killed. Hamas has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The closure of the West Bank would prevent Palestinian laborers from entering Israel. The military did not say how long the closure would last. "In the framework of the closure, Palestinians will not be allowed to exit and enter the territory of the state of Israel," the Israeli military said in a statement on Sunday.

On Monday, Palestinian suicide attacks against Israeli targets continued. A Palestinian insurgent on a bicycle blew himself up near an Israeli army jeep outside the Israeli community of Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip. Three soldiers were injured in an attack in which the Hamas claimed responsibility.

Later, Hamas gunners fired Kassam-2 short-range missiles toward Israel. One missile landed in the southern city of Sderot and two people were injured.

Israeli officials said Hamas has targeted Jerusalem for a range of attacks. They said authorities arrested eight Hamas residents of Jerusalem who had planned to hijack a commuter bus in the city and hold passengers hostage in an attempt to release Palestinians held by Israel.

Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened his Cabinet to discuss the latest wave of suicide attacks. Sharon rejected calls by at least one minister to expel Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"We have to change the rules of the game," Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz, who supports Arafat's expulsion, said.

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