Israel raids Arafat HQ hours after Tel Aviv bus bombing attack; At least five killed; Hamas vows more attacks
Israeli tanks stormed into the compound of Yasser's headquarters on Thursday night and opened fire with heavy machineguns hours after a Palestinian suicide bombing, Arafat aides said.
Palestinian officials said tanks moved into the compound outside Arafat's offices in Ramallah.
"Tanks and jeeps are inside the compound and surrounding our office from all sides. There is fierce shooting. Two of our men have been injured but the president is fine," one of Arafat's bodyguards told Reuters.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Arafat had called him from his offices in Ramallah. "We fear they will enter the president's office," he said.
Tel Aviv bombing
A Palestinian blew himself up on a crowded bus Thursday in downtown Tel Aviv, killing at least five other people and wounding 49. It was the second suicide bombing in two days after a six-week lull.
Israeli emergency services reported that there were at least five fatalities in the blast, and that a large number of people were injured.
Israel Radio reported that the source of the blast was a suicide bomber. Army radio said the bomber had boarded the bus on a busy central thoroughfare.
David Baker, an official in Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office, said Palestinian militants are waging war against Israeli civilians. "The Palestinians have jumped on the terror bandwagon and are keen on unleashing murderous deeds at any and every opportunity," he said.
Sharon called Thursday evening his full Cabinet into special session for the first time since March. Before the session, Israeli Defense Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, met with army commanders on how to respond. Ben-Eliezer also briefly toured the bombing scene.
The Palestinian Authority said it condemned attacks on all civilians, whether Israelis or Palestinians. The Tel Aviv attack is "totally against the (Palestinian) national interest, and it gives (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon's government and his occupation army the pretext to continue killing, to continue the siege and to continue settlement activities," the authority said in a statement.
Both the military wing of the Islamic Jihad - the Al Quds Brigades - and the Hamas claimed responsbility for the attack.
A spokesman for Hamas, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, said he did not know who was behind the attack but welcomed it. "The Zionists are paying for the crimes and terrorism of their leaders and they should know that we are the real owners of this land and we would never give it up," he said.
Rantisi told AFP he expected a new wave of suicide bombings in Israel. "I expect this is one of a series of martyr operations. The martyr operations will continue against the Zionists, we are defending our people. The resistance will escalate," said Rantissi.
U.S. President Bush said he strongly condemned the suicide bombing. "We continue to send our message to the good people of that region that if you're interested in peace, if you want people to grow up in a peaceful world, all parties must do everything they can to reject and stop violence," Bush said at a meeting in the Oval Office. (Albawaba.com)
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