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Israel Demolishes Suicide Bomber’s Home

August 13, 2003

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israeli troops demolished the West Bank home of a teenage suicide bomber Wednesday, after two bombing attacks prompted Israeli warnings that peace moves will fail if the Palestinians do not start dismantling militant groups.

Two Israelis were killed and 11 wounded in Tuesday’s attacks, the most serious violations yet of a cease-fire declared by Palestinian militant groups June 29.

Palestinian officials blamed Israel, saying it has not lived up to its obligations under a U.S.-backed peace plan and instead engaged in provocative acts, such as continued military raids.

``Israel is the side responsible for the escalation,″ Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr said after talks in Amman, Jordan, between Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. envoy William Burns.

Burns, a U.S. State Department official, met Tuesday in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

In the West Bank town of Ramallah, meanwhile, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat mourned the death of a sister, Yousra Abdel Raouf Al Kidwah, who died in Cairo hospital Wednesday at age 77.

Arafat will not attend Thursday’s funeral in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, where his father is also buried, said an aide, Ahmed Abdel Rahman. Arafat would have to request Israel’s permission to leave Ramallah, and Israel refuses to guarantee he will be able to return.

``He (Arafat) was very upset and felt great sorrow that he couldn’t participate in the funeral and couldn’t see her while she was ill,″ Abdel Rahman said.

In Israel, police said they were on nationwide alert for suicide bombings Wednesday, setting up roadblocks to head off any further attacks. Israel Army Radio said intelligence sources had warnings of 21 impending attacks _ up from seven or eight daily warnings a week ago _ but a police spokesman would not say how many warnings had been received.

Tuesday’s blasts, in an Israeli town and at a West Bank bus stop used by Jewish settlers, killed two Israelis and wounded 11. The two attacks were 11 miles apart and occurred within an hour of one another but were unrelated, police and army officers said.

In response, Sharon said, ``There can be no peace with terror.″

Sharon said the attacks were the result of a ``complete lack of Palestinian action″ in dismantling militant groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as required by the ``road map″ peace plan.

As long as the Palestinians refuse to take action, ``it will be impossible to move forward″ on the road map, he said.

In an interview with the French daily Le Figaro, Sharon said the Palestinian Authority must arrest and punish the planners of terror attacks, ban militant groups and round up weapons. The arms should be removed from the Palestinian areas and destroyed, he said.

Sharon also urged Abbas to block Arafat’s continued influence over the security forces. ``He (Abbas) needs to take control of the money and the payment of salaries,″ Sharon told Le Figaro.

However, Israeli officials refrained from threatening large-scale military retaliation, indicating that they want the relative calm to be restored.

Hamas and a faction loosely linked to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Hamas said the bus stop bombing, near the Jewish settlement of Ariel, was to avenge the killing of two of its bombmakers in an Israeli army raid Friday, and that the group would now return to observing its three-month truce.

A renegade faction of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades which opposes the cease-fire claimed responsibility for the attack on the town of Rosh Haayin, east of Tel Aviv, and threatened more attacks ``until the occupation is defeated.″ Fatah itself declared a six-month halt to attacks on June 29.

The army blew up the family home of the Rosh Haayin bomber, 17-year-old Khamis Gerwan, in the Askar refugee camp on the edge of the city of Nablus, obliging its 11 remaining occupants to move in with relatives nearby, camp residents said.

``The demolition of houses of terrorists sends a message to suicide bombers and their partners that anyone who participated in terrorist activity will pay a price for their actions,″ an army statement said.

The military also said it arrested seven wanted militants in and around Nablus.

Tuesday’s suicide attacks were the first since July 7, when a bomber killed a woman in an Israeli village. Seven people have been killed on the Israeli side since the unilateral Palestinian truce was declared. In contrast, 30 Israelis were killed by suicide bombers in the six weeks before the truce.

Fifteen people, including the three bombers, have been killed on the Palestinian side since the truce began.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the administration would continue to push for a peace accord, but that it would not succeed unless violence stopped.

``We will never get there so long as people continue to participate in terrorist activities, and we see the response to terrorist activities, which are necessary for self-defense,″ he said

The road map calls for Israeli troops to pull out in phases from areas reoccupied during the fighting, leading to a Palestinian state in 2005. It also requires the Palestinians to dismantle the violent groups.

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