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Suicide bomber collaborates

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Palestinian suicide bomber wounds Israeli agents




Associated Press

Wednesday, January 30 Online Edition, Posted at 6:16 AM EST



Taibe, Israel A Palestinian suicide bomber threw himself on an Israeli vehicle parked close to the West Bank border Wednesday, wounding two members of Israel's Shin Bet security service who were sitting inside, police said.

A statement from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office, which is responsible for Shin Bet, said the injured agents were on "an operational mission" when they were attacked. The bomber's body was left at the scene until explosives experts could check it for booby traps.

Palestinian security sources and Israeli radio reports identified the bomber as Murad Abu Asal, 23, and said he had worked as a collaborator with Israel. The attack took place near the Israeli town of Taibe, just metres from a checkpoint that separates Israel from the Palestinian town of Tulkarem in the West Bank.

Palestinian security sources said collaborators regularly meet with Israeli security agents in that area. Israel's security forces have a wide network of Palestinian collaborators who provide intelligence.

Wednesday's attack came a day after Israeli security officials presented Mr. Sharon with a plan aimed at tightening security in Jerusalem, which has seen two deadly Palestinian attacks in the past week. There was no immediate decision whether to adopt the measures.

Frequent attacks in Jerusalem have led to calls to both tighten the closure that keeps most West Bank Palestinians out of the city and also find a way to limit the access of Palestinians in east Jerusalem to the city's Jewish western side.

The latter concept is politically delicate in Israel, since it annexed east Jerusalem shortly after seizing it in the 1967 Mideast war and claims the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their capital of a future state.

Any division would also pose logistical complications, since Israel has built Jewish neighbourhoods all around the eastern sector, where about 200,000 Jews live a number about equal to the city's Palestinian population. Creating a clean dividing line would be virtually impossible.

Security experts on Tuesday offered Mr. Sharon a plan that includes patrols, fences and checkpoints. The Haaretz daily and Israel TV said that the national security council chief, Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan, had proposed building a 10-kilometre wall.

But in a statement, Mr. Sharon opposed any physical division and said "the plan must be treated as a whole, covering the Jewish and Arab neighbourhoods alike." He said it would include some Arab villages which fall under Palestinian civilian but Israeli security control.

Sharon aide Raanan Gissin acknowledged there likely would be security checks, fences and checkpoints of "some kind" inside the city as well. But Public Security Minister Uzi Landau told Israel TV the main goal was to keep West Bank Palestinians out of Jerusalem.

On Sunday, a Palestinian bomber set off an explosive charge, killing herself and an 81-year-old Israeli man and injuring dozens in Jerusalem. A few days earlier, a Palestinian gunman opened fire nearby, killing two women. There have been several other bloody suicide bomb and car bomb attacks in the city over the past several months.

Sunday's bomber was initially identified as a woman studying in the West Bank town of Nablus but relatives on Wednesday revealed that she was 27-year-old Wafa Idris, a divorced paramedic from the Amari refugee camp in Ramallah.

Israel has taken some steps to counter the Palestinian claims to east Jerusalem, banning some gatherings and recently closing the Orient House, a building that served as the area's unofficial Palestinian headquarters. But Palestinians note a division is more or less in effect already, since few Israelis dare to venture into the Arab areas.

In the West Bank town of Ramallah, where Israeli tanks maintain their positions outside Yasser Arafat's headquarters, the Palestinian leader addressed a delegation from Nablus on Tuesday.

Declaring that the Palestinians are "defending the dignity of the Islamic and Arab world," Mr. Arafat joined in a chant, "we're going to Jerusalem with millions of fighters."

Unable to make his usual visits to world capitals, Mr. Arafat has offered fiery speeches from Ramallah almost daily, pledging victory. His Cabinet has issued several statements calling for an end to attacks against Israelis.





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