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Israel heightens security for Ramadan after Tel Aviv bombings

January 10, 1997

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel put more soldiers on the streets across Israel today after two bomb blasts in Tel Aviv wounded 13 Israelis and threw a new kink into the labored peace talks with the Palestinians.

In Jerusalem, 3,000 troop reinforcements were stationed in the Old City as police expected thousands of Muslim worshipers for prayers today, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

``We realize that there could be some sort of activity,″ Internal Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani said.

Overnight, police arrested two more Arabs and then released them and a third person arrested after the bombing. Kahalani said police have not identified those directly responsible for the bombings late Thursday in a poor Tel Aviv neighborhood.

Some, including Palestinian officials, accused the militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but no group has claimed responsibility.

``We don’t have any suspects that we can point to as the ones that lead to this and caused the explosions,″ Kahalani said on Israel’s army radio.

Kahalani was on his way to an Israeli Cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the explosions, which sent 13 Israelis to hospitals. Army radio said 10 people remained hospitalized today.

``It is clear to us now, almost beyond any doubt, that this was a terrorist attack,″ the prime minister said.

Palestinian police told their Israeli counterparts that the bombs were probably planted by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has carried out a number of other attacks against Israelis.

Israel had been bracing for an attack by militants hoping to scuttle efforts to complete an agreement on an Israeli troop pullout in the West Bank, or to avenge last week’s attack by a Jewish settler on Palestinians in Hebron.

The explosives, believed to have been pipe bombs packed with nails, exploded in a pedestrian walkway near an abandoned bus station. The area is a center of the city’s large foreign worker community.

The blasts occurred about a mile from the Defense Ministry, where Netanyahu was meeting with U.S. envoy Dennis Ross in an effort wrap up the Hebron pact.

Netanyahu left the meeting with Ross after being informed of the blasts and went to a nearby hospital where most of the wounded had been taken.

He promised to ``wage war against the terrorists,″ adding that if it turns out the assailants came from the autonomous Palestinian areas, Israel will not ``carry on as though nothing had happened.″

The speaker of the Palestinian National Council, Ahmed Qureia, condemned the bombings as ``a wretched action aimed at stopping the peace process,″ army radio said.

Ross, who had planned to return to the United States today, extended his stay in the region and was expected to meet with Yasser Arafat on Saturday in Gaza to continue the discussions on Hebron, the last West Bank city under Israeli control.

Despite Arab-Israeli tensions created by Netanyahu’s hard-line policies, there have been no terrorist bombings in Israel since a wave of attacks last spring killed 63 people.

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