TEL AVIV Ñ Fatah, the ruling Palestinian movement led by Yasser Arafat has
claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in which at least
three Israelis were killed and more than 70 wounded.
It was the fourth suicide attack against Israeli targets in less than
three days. Both Fatah and the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility in what
officials said was a joint operation.
Arafat and the Palestinian Authority condemned the
bombing while the Israeli government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon debated its response to the crisis.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israel might end up expelling Arafat
if he continues to foil efforts by PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to end
the insurgency war. Officials said Arafat has managed to ensure that Abbas,
or Abu Mazen, remains bereft of any authority over PA security agencies.
"At this stage it would be wrong to expel Arafat, because the world
would see this as if Israel was torpedoing the [peace] process, and Abu
Mazen was collaborating with Israel," Mofaz said in an address to Tel Aviv
University. "If Arafat continues to act as a main obstacle to the process,
and, at the same time, Abu Mazen remains willing to battle terrorist
organizations, then there will be no alternative but to consider steps to
deport Arafat in the future."
On Monday, a
Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of a crowded
shopping mall in the northern city of Afula.
Authorities said a security guard struggled with the attacker, who tried
to enter the Afula shopping mall. During the struggle, the Palestinian,
identified as a 19-year-old woman from the West Bank village of Tubas, blew
At first, Islamic groups claimed credit for the suicide strike. Hamas
spokesman Abdul Aziz Rentisi said the attack pointed to his movement's
success in foiling Israeli security measures over the last 48 hours. They
included a closure of the West Bank as well as military operations in
several Palestinian cities.
Later, Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-dominated Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
So far, 12 Israelis have been killed in the latest wave of bombings.
Israeli officials said the bombs used in the attack were composed of
explosives rarely seen in recent suicide bombings.
The Sharon government has struggled to
form a response to the Hamas campaign. Sharon has ruled out the prospect of
expelling Arafat, chairman of the PA, despite the
assertion by Israeli security officials that he approved the latest attacks.
Meanwhile, Al Qaida-linked insurgents fought combatants of the ruling
Fatah movement in the increasingly bloody battle for control of the
Palestinian community in Lebanon.
Eight people were killed and 25 were wounded in battles between the Al
Qaida-linked insurgents and Fatah in the Ein Hilwe refugee camp on Monday.
Six of the casualties were members of the Fatah faction, which control the
Palestinian refugee camp outside the city of Sidon.
Palestinian sources said gunmen from Usbat Al Ansar and the splinter
Usbat Al Nur attacked a Fatah stronghold in Ein Hilwe to avenge what they
termed was an attempted assassination on Usbat chief Abdullah Shraidi. The
sources said the two sides employed automatic fire and shoulder-fired
anti-tank weapons in the five-hour battle.
About 200 Usbat insurgents attacked Fatah offices, the sources said.
Many passersby were injured while others fled Ein Hilwe, the largest refugee
camp in Lebanon with a population of close to 75,000.
Lebanese troops were stationed at the entrance of Ein Hilwe. But under
Syrian orders the Lebanese troops did not enter the camp.
In 2000, the Usbat groups were said to have led a revolt against
Lebanese and Syrian authorities in northern Lebanon. Lebanese forces quelled
the rebellion and some of the Usbat insurgents fled to Ein Hilwe.
Farther south, Hizbullah gunners launched anti-aircraft fire toward
towns in northern Israel. A fire broke out in the Israeli city of Kiryat
Shmoneh from an artillery shell. Nobody was injured.