Palestinian With Ax Attacks Bus Commuters Near Army Base
JERUSALEM (AP) _ A Muslim militant armed with an ax and two firebombs attacked passengers on a commuter bus today outside an army base before being shot by a soldier. Four Israelis also were wounded.
Two passengers were wounded by ax blows and two by the soldier who opened fire when the bus pulled to a halt by the base on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Police Commissioner Rafi Peled said.
Peled said the assailant belonged to the Islamic militant group Hamas. Israel radio’s Arabic language service reported that an anonymous caller claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of Hamas.
The attack follows two suicide bomb attacks this month in which buses were targeted and 12 Israelis were killed and 73 wounded. Those attacks were also claimed by Hamas, which opposes the Israel-PLO peace negotiations.
The attacker was a 25-year-old Palestinian from Shuafat, a Jerusalem Arab neighborhood near the scene of the attack, Peled said.
The attack occurred on a red-and-white tandem bus at 2:15 p.m. near Neveh Yaacov, a Jewish neighborhood that borders the West Bank. Blood stained the road, a thoroughfare linking Jerusalem with the West Bank town of Ramallah.
The wounded Israelis were described as in stable to serious condition. The attacker, who was shot in the leg, was in fair condition, the radio said.
Passenger Eli Tubul, 13, said the Palestinian launched his attack from the front of the bus. ″He started shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Great) and began hitting people,″ Tubul said.
Peled said police had asked Egged, Israel’s main bus company, to improve security, but that it was impossible to prevent all attacks in a mixed Jewish- Arab city like Jerusalem.
Also today, an Israeli daily reported Israel’s domestic intelligence chief told the government he expects chaos and further bloodshed among Palestinians once the army withdraws from the occupied Gaza Strip.
The assessment raises questions about two basic assumptions of the Israel- PLO accord on Palestinian autonomy - that there will be an orderly transfer of power and that the PLO can take firm control.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s spokesman, Oded Ben-Ami, refused comment on the assessment, which follows recent reports from Gaza and the West Bank of infighting among armed Palestinian factions.
The PLO’s strongest rival in Gaza is Hamas, which opposes the autonomy accord. PLO sources said there have been meetings between the two factions on how to prevent friction and bloodshed once autonomy begins.
Israel radio reported Sunday that Hamas sought assurances from the PLO that it will be permitted to continue attacks against Israeli targets without facing opposition from Arafat’s police but that the PLO has rejected the demand.
Jewish settler leaders today debated whether to approve proposed instructions that call on settlers to ″open fire without hesitation″ on Palestinian stone-throwers even if soldiers are in the area.
The instructions were contained in a pamphlet prepared for the Settlers Council, according to the Haaretz daily. Council members represent 125,000 settlers in the West Bank and Gaza.
Haaretz said the pamphlet complains the army no longer protects settlers traveling on roads in the occupied lands. It said since the Feb. 25 Hebron mosque massacre, in which a settler killed 30 Muslim worshipers, soldiers have been barred from shooting at Palestinians who throw stones or firebombs.
Meanwhile, army and border police commanders were told to prepare for starting joint patrols May 1 with Palestinian police in the autonomous regions, Gaza and the West Bank town of Jericho.
The army’s assumption is that by the end of April, Israel and the PLO will sign their agreement on the details of implementing autonomy, Haaretz said.