TOPICS > Politics

Suicide Bombers Kill 14, Wound Dozens

BY Admin  March 31, 2002 at 12:40 PM EST

The first explosion happened in a crowded restaurant in the northern port city of Haifa. A Palestinian blew himself up, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 40 others.

The blast was so powerful that it tore away much of the roof, and shattered tables and windows.

Later in the afternoon, a bomber blew himself up in a paramedics’ dispatch station in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Four members of the intensive care unit were wounded.

Yesterday, a suicide bomber struck a popular Tel Aviv cafe, killing himself and wounding dozens.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave a five minute television address Sunday in which he said his country “is at war” and would strike relentlessly at Palestinian militants.

Sharon said Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was “the enemy of Israel and the free world in general,” and was directing a campaign of terrorism against the Jewish state.

As the military offensive in the West Bank and Gaza continued, the Israeli army threatened Sunday to forcibly remove foreigners, including journalists, from Ramallah after declaring it a closed military zone.

Israeli troops and tanks have controlled Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah since Sharon declared him Israel’s enemy Friday and set out to isolate him in an attempt to halt a wave of suicide attacks.

The Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel protested the army’s decision.

The UN, the European Union and Arab leaders have all condemned Israel’s occupation of Arafat’s headquarters, calling on the military to immediately withdraw its forces from the compound.

The U.S., which earlier had endorsed a UN resolution critical of the occupation, later seemed to offer continued support to the Jewish state.

From his ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush yesterday demanded Arafat do more to end terrorism while calling on the Israeli government to ensure there is a political path to peace as it exerts its right to self-defense.

“I fully understand Israel’s need to defend itself … but as she does so, I urge that the Israeli government makes sure that there’s a path to peace,” Bush told reporters, speaking publicly for the first time since the Israel incursion into Ramallah. “There’s got to be a peaceful solution and I have been assured by the Israeli government that Chairman Arafat … won’t be harmed.”

President Bush called on Arafat and other Arab leaders in the region to end their support of the terrorism the president said is the root of the continuing crisis.

“[Yasser Arafat] has got to make it absolutely clear that the Palestinian Authority does not support terrorists … I think that Chairman Arafat can do a lot more,” Mr. Bush said. “The Iranians must step up and stop fostering terrorism. The Syrians must participate.”

The president’s words came just hours after the U.S. endorsed a UN Security Council resolution calling on Israel to withdraw its troops from all Palestinian cities including Ramallah.

The 14-0 vote occurred early yesterday morning after a marathon emergency session called at the request of the Palestinians after Israeli tanks and troops entered Arafat’s compound.

It was the second time in a month that the U.S., Israel’s closest ally, approved a Mideast resolution, after years of abstaining and vetoing council measures critical of Israel.

The adopted resolution called on “both parties to move immediately to a meaningful cease-fire; calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah; and calls upon the parties to cooperate fully with Special Envoy Zinni” to implement an immediate cease-fire and start negotiations for a political settlement.

Syria, a hard-line opponent of Israel, refused to vote on the resolution saying it was not critical enough of the Israeli incursion, marking the first time in 42 years, a member of the security council boycotted a vote.

“We tried our best to get a resolution that would address the aspirations of the Arab group, but unfortunately we did not find it to the level that we hoped,” the Syrian ambassador said.

In a candlelit interview with Reuters television Saturday, Arafat remained defiant.

“I appeal to the international community to stop this aggression against our people, this military escalation, this killing,” Arafat told Reuters television in English.

“Together we will march until one of our children raises the Palestinian flag over the churches and mosques of Jerusalem,” he added later in Arabic.

Also Saturday, the Israeli military displayed a cache of weapons it said was seized from Arafat’s compound, including machine guns, automatic rifles, mortars and more than 40 rocket-propelled grenades. The Israeli officials said all the weapons were illegal under past peace accords.