Bombs kill three and threaten Wye deal in threat to peace deal Three die as bombs hit Israeli towns

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The Independent Online
EXPLOSIONS IN two cars in the northern Israeli cities of Tiberias and Haifa last night killed three people and immediately threw in doubt the land-for-peace agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinians less than 24 hours before.

The first explosion tore apart a car in Tiberias, a holiday resort on the Sea of Galilee, killing two people in the vehicle and wounding four pedestrians, one of them critically. At almost the same moment a car exploded 50 miles away in the port of Haifa, killing the driver.

The attacks bear the hallmark of Hamas, the Islamic militant Palestinian organisation, which has been responsible for suicide bomb attacks in the past. If this is confirmed, it will be difficult for Ehud Barak, the Israeli Prime Minister, to release 350 Palestinian security prisoners as he pledged to do under the agreement signed in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt on Saturday night. Mr Barak said last night that Israel would not tolerate terrorism, but he stopped short of threatening a halt in the peacemaking.

The car in Haifa blew up in a largely deserted area. This makes it likely that the bombers were the victims of their own explosions.

Hamas has been seriously damaged by Palestinian and Israeli security since it launched a highly effective suicide bombing campaign in 1995- 6. This ensured the loss of the Israeli election by the Labour Party and brought Benjamin Netanyahu, who froze the peace process, to power.

Palestinian security had warned over the weekend that Hamas was planning attacks.Last weekend, two Israeli hikers were knifed to death in a wood near Megiddo in northern Israel. Haifa and Tiberias are both close to the northern West Bank and would not be difficult to reach.

The probability that the bombers were killed by premature explosions suggests that Hamas no longer has the expertise it showed three years ago. But Palestinian and Israeli security will fear more attacks.

Mr Barak, a former Israeli chief of staff, and Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, are likely to react forcibly to the bombings. Mr Barak won the election partly because of his reputation for being tough on security.

Full report and analysis, page 12

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