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Truck carrying Israeli soldiers hit by firebomb, 13 hurt

April 2, 1997

JELAZOUN, West Bank (AP) _ A firebomb smashed the front windshield of a truck carrying Israeli soldiers today, sending it tumbling down a slope near this Palestinian refugee camp, the army said. Thirteen people were hurt.

The truck came to a stop on its side just a few yards from the first homes of Jelazoun, a camp about 12 miles north of Jerusalem. Troops imposed a curfew on Jelazoun, and Israel TV said tracks of two assailants led to the center of the camp.

Smoke was still rising nearly an hour later from the wreckage, the front of the truck crumpled, the left tires burned out. Side windows were covered by chicken wire, standard protection for Israeli vehicles in the West Bank.

The attack came at a time of growing crisis in relations between Israel and the Palestinians _ and just a day after two bungled suicide-bombings outside Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. Only the bombers died; seven Palestinians were wounded.

The trouble began nearly two weeks ago, after Israel started construction on a new Jewish neighborhood in disputed east Jerusalem.

An army truck _ with a separate driver’s cabin and the back fitted with seats for passengers _ passed the refugee camp at about 1:40 p.m. today when a firebomb smashed the front windshield and exploded near the driver, said an Israeli army commander, who was identified as Col. Shlomo.

The driver lost control over the truck, and the vehicle rolled down a slope until it came to a stop. Soldiers climbed out, and some carried out the driver, who had broken a leg, said Palestinian witnesses watching from Jelazoun. Paramedics said 13 people were hurt.

Palestinian police today detained 30 people, most followers of the militant Islamic Jihad group, in connection with Tuesday’s bombings. Thirteen were released after questioning, Palestinian officials said.

Two Palestinians also were shot to death Tuesday by Israeli troops in the West Bank.

President Clinton has stepped up U.S. efforts to end the crisis in the Mideast peace process, asking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet him Monday at the White House. Clinton also urged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to show ``zero tolerance″ for terrorism.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called Arafat twice at dawn today.

The Maariv newspaper reported that Clinton planned to propose to both sides to move up negotiations on a permanent peace agreement, set a specific deadline, and conduct the last, decisive phase in a Camp David-type setting.

While the talks go on, Israel would proceed with its three-stage troop pullback in the West Bank, to be completed by mid-1998, Maariv said. The United States also proposes setting up a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization to fight terrorism.

Some confusion remained over the nature of Tuesday’s explosions _ Palestinian police insisted one was caused by Israeli troops _ but there were growing signs that Islamic Jihad was involved.

The two men killed outside the Netzarim and Kfar Darom settlements in the Gaza Strip were believed to belong to Islamic Jihad. Both had been held in Palestinian jails in the past.

However, a political leader of the group, Sheik Abdallah Shami, denied Islamic Jihad was involved.

Mourning tents were set up today outside the homes of Anwar Shadrawi, a 20-year-old Islamic science student, and Abdallah Madhoun, a 19-year-old high school senior, both from the Jebaliya refugee camp north of Gaza City.

Relatives said both left the house before dawn Tuesday, following prayers. Both had held long talks with their relatives in recent days. Madhoun told his family to ``forgive him about anything he had done in the past that may have upset them,″ said his brother Ahmed.

In the tent outside Madhoun’s house, 20 men sat in plastic chairs as a photograph of the dead youth was passed around. A banner strung above read: ``We will continue with Jihad (holy war) until victory or martyrdom.″

Both explosions went off about 7 a.m. Israeli officials said they were apparently aimed at school buses leaving the Jewish settlements, but missed their targets.

Palestinian police said the incident outside the Kfar Darom settlement was not a bombing. Quoting witnesses, they said Israeli troops hurled an explosive onto a donkey cart.

The Haaretz newspaper said the two other Palestinians killed Tuesday belonged to a group trained by radical Palestinian groups to carry out suicide attacks. The Israeli military official it quoted said the type of bomb used Tuesday was identical to one that blew up a Tel Aviv cafe on March 21, killing three Israeli women.

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