Palestinian suicide bomber wounds two guards in Israel
BEERSHEBA: A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up, critically wounding two guards at an Israeli bus station on Sunday in the first such attack since the eviction of Jewish settlers from Gaza and part of the West Bank.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast in Beersheba, three days after troops killed five Palestinians in a raid on a militant hideout in the West Bank city of Tulkarm, drawing a vow of revenge from the Islamic Jihad group.
A police spokesman said nearly 50 people were treated at hospital, most of them for shock. The two guards, who chased the bomber, were critically hurt, the spokesman said.
The explosion, at the entrance to Beersheba’s central bus station, followed a call by US President George W Bush for the Palestinians to respond to last week’s pullout from occupied Gaza by showing “they will fight terrorism”.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the suicide bombing, calling it “a terrorist attack” in a statement issued by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA. He described Israel’s Tulkarm raid as a “provocation” and urged all sides to show restraint.
Police said the bomber tried to board a bus at the start of the Israeli work week but drew the driver’s suspicion.
“The driver signalled two security guards to go to him,” Uri Barlev, the police chief for southern Israel, told Army Radio. “These two security guards ultimately prevented an attack that could have been a lot worse.”
Minutes before the explosion, Israel Radio broadcast a pledge by Abbas to maintain indefinitely a ceasefire he declared along with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in February.
“According to the agreement, the truce is continuing and it’s not linked to a time ... and everyone knows that,” Abbas told the radio.
Palestinian militant factions have said a “period of calm” they announced in March at Abbas’s urging will expire at year’s end. They have vowed to continue armed resistance following a Gaza pullout they claimed as a victory.
Israeli Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told reporters the bombing “proves again the Palestinian Authority has to do a lot more in order to stop the terrorists, and I promise you that we’ll continue to fight against them everywhere”.
A suicide bomber last struck on July 12, killing five people outside a shopping mall in the coastal city of Netanya.
Beersheba was last hit by bombings a year ago, when explosions tore through two commuter buses, killing 16 people. Hamas claimed responsibility for those blasts. reuters