Suicide Bomber Targets Israeli Teens
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon blames Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat for Wednesday's suicide bomb attack, which killed two Israeli teenagers and left another teen fighting for his life on Wednesday. Three other children between the ages of 12 and 17 were injured.
It was the third bomb attack on Israeli targets in two days.
Police said there were two other attempted bomb attacks in Israel on Wednesday. But the explosive placed in the cities of Netanya and Petah Tikvah were discovered before they detonated, so no one was injured.
Wednesday's fatal attack happened in the parking lot of the Mifgash Hashalom ("meeting place of peace") gas station, near the boundary between Israel and PA-ruled areas.
The boys were waiting at the gas station for a ride to their religious school. Police said the suicide bomber stood near the boys and then blew himself up. The bomb strapped to his body contained nails, which contributed to the victims' wounds.
"I saw my friends blown apart," Rafael Zomer, 15, was quoted as saying. "One of them was without hands."
Eliran Rosenberg Zayat, 15, and Naphtali Lanskorn, 14, died instantly. Doctors were struggling to save another boy, whose injuries were described as "multi-organ" and "head-to-toe." A fourth child took a nail in the eye, while two others had light injuries.
Israeli security forces are already on high alert, after warnings that there would be an escalation in terror attacks surrounding the Arab League summit in Amman, where Arafat is seeking political and financial backing to continue the violent uprising against Israel.
Hamas claims responsibility
The military wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to a news agency and said it had more suicide bombers ready to spring into action.
"We ... announce our full responsibility for the operation this morning at the crossroads of Qalqilia, Kfar Saba. The elite unit 103 returned to base safely after moving the martyr to the place of the operation."
The caller also said Hamas claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Jerusalem Tuesday, in which 28 Israelis were hurt.
"There are still seven martyrs ready to strike and we have more," the Hamas caller added.
Another Islamist group, Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for an earlier car bomb attack near a Jerusalem mall on Tuesday, in which seven people were lightly injured.
The attacks came one day after a Palestinian sniper killed a ten-month-old Israeli baby, and they have prompted a public outcry for Sharon to fulfill his campaign pledge and restore security to the country.
Sharon has scheduled a meeting of his security cabinet for early Wednesday evening. Analysts believe he is waiting until the Arab League summit in Jordan ends later Wednesday before deciding on further action.
Public Security Minister Uzi Landau said he expected the wave of terror to continue but said that Israel would respond to the violence and "determine the timing" of Israel's reaction.
"The battle ahead of us will continue for weeks and months," he said in a radio interview.
Landau said the government would wage a "daily war on terror. You don't have to wait for a bomb to blow up in order to respond," he said. "Arafat and the PA have to pay a price on a daily basis - an economic, security and diplomatic price."
Bush calls Sharon
President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned Sharon last night, who updated them on the wave of terror attacks, saying they were perpetrated at the initiative of Arafat.
Arafat, Sharon said, has refrained from ordering a halt to the terror, despite the fact that Israel has eased restrictions on the Palestinians, according to a statement from the prime minister's office.
"He has not stopped the violence, but has even increased it, while the thrust behind the perpetration of these acts of terror is Force 17, Arafat's Presidential Guard," the statement said.
The State Department condemned the attacks, but urged Israel and the Palestinians to return to direct negotiations.
"We completely condemn these attacks of the past few days. We're certainly deeply troubled by the continuation of the violence. We think there's absolutely no justification for the killing of innocent people, and especially children," spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.
"It's important to us that the parties begin discussing directly with each other the kinds of steps that are necessary to ease the climate of violence and to ease the economic pressure," he added.