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Economic war declared on Palestine: Jerusalem bombing

Israel yesterday retaliated for Wednesday's twin suicide bombings in a Jerusalem fruit and vegetable market, which killed 13 Israeli civilians and wounded another 170, by declaring economic war on the two million Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Armed troops barred tens of thousands of day labourers from crossing the old "green-line" border to jobs in Israeli agriculture, industry and services. A reinforced military garrison laid siege to seven West Bank towns now under Palestinian self-rule. "No one," a military spokesman said, "can come in or out".

In West Bank villages still under Israeli control, the security services rounded up 28 Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity. The Palestinian police are reported to have detained dozens more. But the Israelis had not yet carried out their threat to send commandos into Palestinian-controlled areas to pick up alleged ring-leaders.

Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition has indicated that the closure will not be lifted in a hurry. "After the Mahane Yehuda bombing," a government spokesman, Moshe Fogel, told The Independent, "we're not going to say business as usual. Yasser Arafat has to convince us that he is serious. There has to be a consistent policy of fighting terror."

Until then, the peace negotiations will remain in limbo. "The basis of the peace process," Mr Fogel insisted, "has to be the understanding that violence is not a legitimate diplomatic tool."

As an example of Israel's demands, he complained that a week ago Israeli forces arrested a band of Palestinian policemen on the way to carry out an attack. The evidence, he claimed, led to the Palestinian police commander, General Ghazi Jabali. Mr Arafat was informed, but did nothing about it. Israel has now issued an arrest warrant against the general.

Israeli investigators were still trying last night to identify the suicide bombers. Inquiries were focussed on two known Hamas operatives from the village of Dahariyeh, near Hebron, who went into hiding a year ago, but police scientists wanted to complete DNA tests before confirming their suspicions. A leaflet in the name of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, claimed responsibility for the bombing, which it said was in revenge for a poster distributed in Hebron last month which depicted the prophet Mohammed as a pig.

The Mahane Yehuda market defiantly reopened for trade yesterday morning. "We cannot be broken," said Uri Mizrahi, who was up at 5.30am to stock his vegetable stall. Shoppers lit candles at the site of the bombing as police stood guard.

Fifty-eight of the wounded were still being treated in Jerusalem hospitals yesterday. One was reported to be in critical condition. Another 13, including two badly-burned teenage girls, were in a serious state. Most of the dead were buried yesterday, but one was still unidentified.