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Israel strikes back after suicide blast
( 2003-10-05 09:30) (Agencies)

At least 19 people, including children, were killed by a female suicide bomber in a terror attack Saturday afternoon at a crowded restaurant in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Israeli hospital sources said.

A handout picture of Palestinian Hanadi Tayseer Jaradat, 29, released by her family in the West Bank city of Jenin October 4, 2003. The militant group Islamic Jihad said it was behind the bombing and named the bomber as Jaradat from the West Bank city of Jenin. It said she was avenging the killing of her brother and cousin, Islamic Jihad members, by Israel in the three-year-old Palestinian uprising for statehood. [Reuters]

Hours later, an Israeli Apache helicopter fired at least two rockets at a house in Gaza City, Palestinian security sources said. There was no information about any deaths or injuries.

Israel also launched a second airstrike at the Al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, security sources said. One person was reported injured in that strike.

Two top Palestinian officials condemned the Haifa attack, and an Israeli official said in light of the tragedy, "It's about time to expel" Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, who Israel has threatened to remove.

Calling the act "vicious," U.S. President Bush said in a written statement, "It underscores once again the responsibility of Palestinian authorities to fight terror."

At least 50 people were wounded in the blast that destroyed much of the popular Arab-owned Maxim restaurant, at the southern entrance to the port city on the Mediterranean.

News agencies are reporting that Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack -- a militant group that has claimed responsibility for terror attacks in the past.

Palestinian security sources in Jenin said the suicide bomber was a 23-year-old woman and indicated that she embarked on the attack in retaliation for the killings of relatives by Israel. The sources said she witnessed the killing in June of her brother and a second cousin, who had been targeted by Israel for what it calls involvement in Islamic Jihad activities.

Forces in Israel have been on high alert for terror attacks ahead of Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day, which begins at sundown Sunday and ends at sundown Monday.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank town of Tulkarem, a 9-year-old boy was shot and killed by Israeli troops who were conducting a raid to arrest a Palestinian militant, Palestinian security sources said.

But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled denied a child was killed in the shootout and said the claim is a "Palestinian fabrication."

He said Israeli military sources said troops returned fire only after they were fired upon.

Israeli military sources confirmed that they shot dead Sirhan Barahan Sirhan, a militant wanted for an attack last year on a kibbutz.

'We know Arafat is responsible'

The suicide bombing in Haifa comes as the country commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, in which Syria and Egypt attacked Israel.

Israeli Health Minister Danny Naveh said: "We are fed up with the words and promises of the Palestinian leadership," and added, "It's about time to expel Arafat. "

Speaking at a hospital where the wounded were being treated, he said, "We know Arafat is responsible" for terrorist attacks against Israelis over the last few years, giving a "green light" to militants to embark on the attacks.

Palestinian leaders decry attack

Ahmed Qorei, the Palestinian prime minister-designee, issued a "rejection and condemnation of the ugly attack."

He called on the Palestinian people and all Palestinian factions to "practice self-restraint and to stop all attacks that target Israeli civilians."

He added that these attacks are "harmful for our just and legitimate national struggle."

Qorei also called on the Israeli government to end the suffering of the Palestinian people by stopping its policies of land confiscation and targeting of Palestinian activists and leaders.

"The Palestinian Authority condemns this attack," said Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator.

"We urge the Americans and the (Middle East) Quartet to step up their efforts in order to ensure the implementation of the road map and to bring back the parties to the negotiation table."

The Quartet is a coalition of Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations that has worked for Mideast peace.

Israel will 'continue building fences'

Sources in the prime minister's office said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been talking by telephone with security heads and ministers.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said "we need action" from the Palestinian Authority to rein in terrorists and said it remains to be seen whether Qorei is a "partner" for peace.

"Israel is in a continuous fight and struggle against these terrorists," Peled said. But "she's basically doing the job or the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority in the first place."

"We'll continue building fences and continue taking necessary measures to defend ourselves as long as there isn't a partner on the Palestinian side."

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