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Suicide Bombing Wounds 9 in Israel

June 11, 2002

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HERZLIYA, Israel (AP) _ A Palestinian bomber blew himself up in a restaurant in a town just north of Tel Aviv, wounding nine bystanders Tuesday, one of a series of violent incidents that killed four Palestinians and wounded four other Israelis.

The violence came as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was in Washington, trying to persuade U.S. leaders that Yasser Arafat is not a proper partner for peace talks because of persistent Palestinian violence. Israeli forces were surrounding Arafat’s West Bank headquarters for a second day.

The suicide bomber blew himself up inside a small restaurant in downtown Herzliya at 7:50 p.m., just before sunset, killing himself and wounding nine, three moderately and one seriously, witnesses and rescue workers said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

David Baker, an official in Sharon’s office, denounced the attack as ``another example of the Palestinians’ intention to commit murder for the sake of murder.″

Herzliya Mayor Yael German arrived at the scene minutes after the blast. ``It’s horrible when innocent civilians, men, women and children, who were just out to get a bite to eat, are hurt in a despicable terror attack,″ she said.

One of the suburbs of the city, called Herzliya Pituach, is the location of the homes of many ambassadors to Israel.

The bombing took place despite tight Israeli restrictions on movement in the West Bank.

Earlier Tuesday, a bomb exploded at the gates of a West Bank orchard as about 40 Israeli teenagers were leaving the field after helping with the cherry harvest near Hebron in the West Bank. Three 15-year-old boys were injured, one seriously. The blast was south of Hebron, near the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, according to the Settlers’ Council.

No one claimed responsibility, but Palestinian militants have carried out dozens of bomb attacks against Israelis in the current fighting.

Palestinian police in the West Bank town of Hebron said Tuesday they found the bodies of two Palestinians suspected of providing Israel with information that helped the army kill a local militia leader.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia group affiliated with Arafat’s Fatah faction, claimed responsibility.

Police said they found spent cartridges close to the bodies, one of which was discovered in the exact spot where Marwan Zalloum _ the local leader of the militia _ was gunned down by an Israeli helicopter on April 22.

In its leaflet, the militia claimed the two men had helped Israel track down Zalloum. Dozens of suspected collaborators have been killed since the Palestinian uprising began 20 months ago.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers saw an explosion along the fence dividing the coastal territory from Israel. After a search, they found the body of a Palestinian who was apparently planting a bomb that exploded prematurely, the army said.

Also in Gaza, a Palestinian who opened fire at an Israeli civilian car, was shot dead by soldiers escorting the vehicle, the Israeli army said. The soldiers and the people in the car were not hurt.

In Washington, Sharon saw Congressional leaders Tuesday after his meeting Monday with Bush. Israeli officials expressed satisfaction, noting that Bush had turned down an Egyptian suggestion to set a timetable for creation of a Palestinian state, and Bush again criticized Arafat, saying ``no one has confidence″ in the Palestinian leadership, and conditions were not right for a peace conference.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo charged that Bush was biased in Israel’s favor, giving Sharon ``all the excuses to continue the policy of siege and destruction.″

In Tulkarem, about 10 Israeli tanks and 15 jeeps entered the West Bank city and several nearby Palestinian villages, conducting searches and preventing residents from leaving their homes. The army said soldiers were looking for militants, though no arrests were reported. The Israeli army also carried out a brief incursion overnight into the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Israeli troops entered Ramallah in force early Monday, encircling Arafat’s compound and clamping a curfew on the Palestinian commercial hub.

The army said it has detained more than 30 suspects in Ramallah, including a suicide bomber who was preparing to attack.

Yusef Tarifi, a lawyer and the son of Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Jamil Tarifi, was among those arrested. The army confirmed the arrest but did not say why Tarifi was taken into custody.

The army said it was encircling Arafat’s compound to prevent militants from seeking refuge there. It did not attack the headquarters itself as it did last Thursday, when soldiers blew up three buildings in retaliation for the suicide bombing a day earlier.

Arafat remained inside the compound Tuesday and was unharmed, Palestinian officials said.

Outside his headquarters, the army blocked roads with earthen barricades and piles of rubble. Streets remained deserted and the army prevented journalists from entering the city, which it declared a closed military zone.

The Israeli army has been conducting almost daily in-and-out raids of Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank.

The incursions _ which follow a wide-scale military operation in the West Bank that ended in May _ are often brief, sometimes lasting just a few hours. The army says the raids are meant to thwart suicide bombings and other attacks.

In another development, Majed al-Masri, a West Bank leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, said the militia had decided to halt attacks in Israel for now. But the militia would continue to attack Jewish settlements and military posts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he said.

He also said that if the army kills any Palestinian militia leaders, the group would resume its attacks inside Israel.

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