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Israel Reels From Deadly Attacks That Leave 21 Dead

BY Admin  March 3, 2002 at 2:20 PM EDT

The latest attack came Sunday when a lone gunman opened fire on a checkpoint in the West Bank, killing 10 Israelis, seven of them soldiers.

The sniper escaped leaving a carbine rifle behind. An anonymous caller claiming to be a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a group linked to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the sniper attack.

He told Reuters the attack was to avenge the “killings and destruction in the refugee camps of Balata and Jenin” late last week.

Palestinian officials said the Sunday morning attack was a continuation of a modified strategy for the militants.

“The new phase of Palestinian resistance is to target Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, the symbols of humiliation and killing,” said Marwan al-Barghouthi, a senior official in the Fatah faction.

Israeli authorities said despite the Palestinian threats to target these checkpoints, they were necessary to prevent more suicide bombers from reaching their targets.

The checkpoint strike came less than 12 hours after suicide attacker did reach his target, detonating a massive bomb in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem.

The explosion took place as more than 1,000 worshippers were leaving the Mahane Israel seminary. Besides the bomber, nine people were killed, including a one-year-old child and several other children, police said.

The Al-Aqsa Brigade also claimed responsibility for this attack.

Israel responded with a series of attacks against Palestinian 
targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians said two of their security force were killed and a number of civilians hurt.

Israeli F-16s continued to circle overhead in Gaza and the West Bank, as Israeli gunboats moved close to the Gaza coast, Palestinians said.

Two other Israelis were shot in the West Bank and near the Gaza Strip bringing the 24-hour total of Israelis killed to 21, one of the deadliest days in the last 17 months of violence.

Israel was quick to blame Arafat and his Palestinian Authority for the deadly attacks.

“There is no alternative but to put an end to Arafat’s rule,” Dan Naveh, an Israeli cabinet minister, told the Associated Press. “I think the best way to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens is that there will no longer be a Palestinian Authority headed by Arafat.”

The latest violence followed two days of Israeli strikes against targets in refugee camps that left as many as 30 Palestinians dead. 

According to press reports, the Israeli government was considering a much larger military response to the latest wave of violence.