TOPICS > Politics

Series of Palestinian Attacks Sweep Across Occupied Territories

BY Admin  February 18, 2002 at 2:32 PM EDT

The first attack occurred at a police checkpoint on a major road to Jerusalem.

“A suspicious vehicle driving … toward Jerusalem was spotted by police because it looked suspicious,” police commander Shahar Elon told Israel’s Army Radio late Monday. “They ordered the car to stop and checked its plates, and it turned out to be stolen. The driver presented his papers, but after the policemen approached he blew up the car, killing one of the policemen.”

Benny Kashriel, mayor of a nearby Jewish settlement, Maaleh Adumim, said the car came from the Palestinian town of Abu Dis and was heading toward Jerusalem.

The incident appeared to be the second successful effort to foil a suicide bombing in as many days. Two Palestinians were killed in a confrontation with police on Sunday.

Within hours of the bombing, a Palestinian attacked a convoy traveling to the Gush Katif settlement in the Gaza Strip. Two Israelis died at the scene and another at a hospital.

Israeli television reported that the attacker opened fire with an automatic weapon and threw multiple grenades at the convoy before blowing himself up.

A caller to a local television station claimed the attack was carried out by a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group linked with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement.

Palestinian militants said there would be no let up in the latest bombing campaign.

“We will continue our attacks on Israeli cities and against the Israelis as long as [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel]
Sharon continues his aggression against our people,” a militant leader told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

A bloody weekend

Today’s attacks come after a weekend of suicide bombings and Israeli retaliation.

The violence began on Saturday when three Palestinians were killed in a gun fight with Israeli troops.

Later that day a senior member of the militant group Hamas on Israel’s wanted list died when his car blew up in the West Bank city of Jenin. Hamas accused the Israeli government of assassinating the leader and said his death would be avenged.

Saturday evening, a suicide bomber struck back. The Palestinian slipped into a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and blew himself up outside a pizzeria, killing himself and two teenage Israelis and injuring 20 others.

The militant group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, took responsibility for the blast — the first such successful attack on a heavily guarded settlement in the 17 months of renewed violence.

The Israeli government laid the blame squarely on Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner called the attack “a continuation of the campaign of carnage and murder of Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority.”

The Israeli military responded to the bombing within hours, launching airstrikes against Palestinian Authority positions in the West Bank city of Nablus.

The Palestinian mayor of Nablus called the late night strikes a “dangerous escalation.”

Witnesses said warplanes and helicopter gunships launched missiles, which severely damaged a Palestinian Authority building, a police compound and offices reserved for Yasser Arafat during his visits. There were no reports of casualties.

Later on Sunday, Israeli police said they foiled a planned suicide bombing. Police commander Yaacov Borovsky said two Palestinians had been on their way to attack an army base near the northern Israeli city of Hadera.

Borovsky said traffic police stopped them on suspicion of having a stolen car. A passenger got out and opened fire at police outside the base. Officers returned fire, killing the man, who officials said had a bomb strapped to his body.

The other Palestinian sped off and police gave chase; within minutes, the car exploded, killing the driver and injuring three policemen.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the Sunday attack.