Barak Announces Sanctions against PA Territories Following Attack in Southern Tel Aviv
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Barak has announced a full closure of all crossings into the Palestinian Authority areas in response to Wednesday's attack in south Tel Aviv when a Palestinian bus driver rammed a crowd of Israelis in Azur to the south of the city, killing at least eight, mostly soldiers, and injuring more than 20, reported The Jerusalem Post newspaper.
The measures also include the end of "all relaxations in the closure imposed on the territories," said the paper, adding that additional steps will be considered when Barak meets senior security officials and cabinet members throughout the day.
According to Radio Israel, four female soldiers, three male and a civilian woman were killed in the incident.
The military wing of the Islamic Resistance Hamas movement, Izzadine Qassam Brigades, and a previously unknown group have claimed responsibility for the attack.
An anonymous person called the radio, claiming that Hamas carried out the assault.
In a statement faxed to Al Jazira satellite channel, meanwhile, the Return Brigades said the "operation was in retaliation for the assassination of Martyr Masoud Ayyad and the shelling of Khan Younis camp."
Ayyad was killed Tuesday when an Israeli helicopter rocketed his car in Jabalia camp, while 90 Palestinians were injured in the raid against the camp, where Israeli forces reportedly used a mysterious gas against the civilians.
According to the Israeli Radio, the attack was initiated as an individual act. Israeli police investigations say that the driver was not directed by any organization.
The Palestinians also share the same belief. Secretary of the Palestinian cabinet, Ahemd Abdel-Rahman told AFP that the attack was not planned and directed by any movement, but it reflects the anger of the Palestinians over the Israeli atrocities.
Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon condemned Wednesday's killing of nine Israeli, mostly soldiers, saying it was a "very serious attack," reported AFP.
"This very serious attack proves once again that the Palestinians don't make any difference between Israel and the settlement of Netzarim," Sharon said, referring to the Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip that has been the scene of much fierce fighting over the past four and a half months of unrest.
Telecommunications minister, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, called for the Palestinian territories to be "hermetically sealed," said the agency.
"We must hermetically close off the territories, even for months, while the bullets are flying," said the minister.
"They (the Palestinians) want blood and we cannot accept that. Yasser Arafat must restore calm, I say that categorically," he told Israeli public television.
"We have negotiated for years with him and it is time he understands," Ben Eliezer said of the Palestinian leader.
In the first reaction by Palestinians to Tel Aviv attack, lawmaker Hatem Abdul Qader told Al Jazira that the development is a message to the Israeli leadership that the Palestinians are able to retaliate the assassinations carried out by their forces.
"The Israeli people is a victim of the Israeli terror in the first place," said Abdul Qader, who is also a Fateh leader in the West Bank.
On Wednesday morning, a Palestinian bus driver rammed his vehicle into a group of Israeli soldiers and civilians at a crossroads south of Tel Aviv.
Reports differed on the number of casualties. Haaretz newspaper and the BBC TV reported that at least 18 were injured, while AFP said that the injured were only ten.
The driver was identified as Khalil Abu Elbeh, 35, a father of five children who lives in Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza.
According to Israel Radio, Abu Elbeh has gone under surgery at Kaplan hospital and a leg was cut. He also broke an arm in the incident. The hospital believes that he will be recovered in few hours and will be transferred to the Shin Beit (Israel’s internal security).
He was allowed to work in Israel under a special program which involves only Palestinians with clear security profiles. His license was renewed last month.
Radio Israel reported that the driver was being interrogated by the police.
The report added that he has been working for Eged bus company for 5 years after he got the security approval.
Reports had said that Abu Elbeh was killed by Israeli fire during the attack. According to Haaretz, he tried to flee the scene in the bus, but was shot dead by pursuing police. But the Post and Radio Israel said that the driver, from the Gaza Strip, was still alive and trapped in his vehicle.
He took Palestinian workers from Gaza to work inside Israel to Ramla (a city in Israel) and was planned to pick them later in the afternoon to Gaza.
Bomb experts who were checking the bus said they found an explosive device in the bus, according to the Post.
The radio said that most of the injured were soldiers, and that the three female soldiers were seriously injured.
According to the Radio Israel, outraged Israeli youngsters went to a construction site nearby and tried to attack Palestinian workers near the incident place in Azur junction.
The radio said that the Israeli police ordered to evacuate all Palestinians in Israel back to Gaza and West Bank in fear of mob revenge.
Meanwhile, Palestinian officer, Eyad Abu Harb, 25 was liquidated when Israeli soldiers set up an ambush in Ramin, a West Bank Village near Tulkarem.
Ehud Barak was quoted in court documents on Tuesday as justifying the liquidation of Intifada leaders. The Israeli army claimed the same day that Masoud was a leader of a "terror cell," organized and trained by the Lebanese Hizbollah movement – Albawaba.com
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