Israel braced for further suicide attacks

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The Independent Online
As relations between Israel and the Palestinians deteriorate in the wake of the suicide bomb in Tel Aviv, the head of Israeli military intelligence said yesterday that he expected further suicide attacks because the Palestinian security services were not co-operating with Israeli intelligence.

General Moshe Yahalon, the head of Israeli military intelligence, said that at a series of meetings the Palestinian security forces had said they were "conditioning co-operation" on political concessions by Israel. He said that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant organisations believed they still had a "green light" from Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, to make further attacks.

Amid signs that security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian leadership was breaking down - having survived four suicide bombs last year - General Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, the Israeli chief of staff, said that Jibril Rajoub, the head of Palestinian security on the West Bank, was in practice fomenting riots in Hebron and Bethlehem, while nominally trying to suppress them.

Gen Yahalon said in a briefing last night that Palestinian security would only act against Hamas if ordered to do so by Mr Arafat. This order had yet to come. He said that at meetings with militant leaders after his return from the US on 9 March, Mr Arafat had given the impression that he would not object to military action against Israel.

The allegations of non-cooperation by Palestinian security contradict earlier state- ments by other Israeli ministers that they were co-operating closely with Mr Rajoub.

As Israelis waited yesterday to see if there would be other bombs, the three women killed on Friday, Yael Gilad, 32, Anat Winter-Rosen, 31, and Michal Avrahami, 32, were buried in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, the Israeli Cabinet was expected to suspend peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. These were already largely terminated by the Palestinians after Israel decided to build a Jewish settlement at Har Homa. David Bar-Ilan, the government's head of communications, said Israel wanted Mr Arafat to take tougher security measures. "Until we see some movement at this level there will be no talks," he said.

There was a third day of rioting in Hebron, where Israeli troops and Palestinian security men were trying to stop stone-throwing boys attacking a settlement of 400 Jews in the city centre. In Bethlehem two Palestinians were shot and wounded by border guards when they ran away from a checkpoint.

Among those Israel wants arrested is Ibrahim Maqademeh, the Hamas leader recently released from jail, who told a rally of several thousand Hamas supporters in Khan Younis in Gaza on the day of the bombing that holy warriors "should blow up enemies of Allah to stop the bulldozers of Netayahu." Speaking of Har Homa, Mr Arafat, who is attending a conference of 54 Islamic states in Pakistan, said: "We were surprised by the Israeli decision to isolate and Judaise Jerusalem."

Gen Yahalon said Israel, having withdrawn from parts of Gaza and the West Bank, needed the co-operation of Palestinian intelligence. Mr Arafat's most powerful card has always been security co-operation and, if Israeli allegations are true, he has decided to show that Israel cannot do without it. Earlier, Avigdor Kahalani, the Internal Security Minister, made a surprisingly optimistic statement after meeting Jibril Rajoub, the head of Palestinian Preventive Security on the West Bank, saying: "There is going to be an open line between Jibril Rajoub and my office and even myself."

Mahmoud Abed el Kader Ranimat, 28, the suicide bomb-er, had a different background from previous bombers and may have been chosen for this reason, to lull suspicions. Living in the village of Zurif, near Hebron, he was a father of four and had a regular job. Previous bombers have been younger, unemployed and unmarried.

People who knew the bomber said he was "a quiet guy", known to be a supporter of Hamas, but not very active. He had been arrested four times since the start of the Palestinian intifada in 1987. He had worked in the kitchens of restaurants in Rishon Lezion on the outskirts of Tel Aviv and slept in one of them on the night before he took the bus to Tel Aviv to blow himself up.

Moshe Zanzuri, the owner of the Formaggio restaurant in Rishon Lezion, was arrested during the weekend for questioning about Ranimat, who used to work for him.

It is unclear whether Ranimat was one of 57,000 Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank with a permit to work in Israel, or one of tens of thousands of illegal workers.

Meanwhile, Israeli security services are now seeking to demolish Ranimat's house in Zurif village, where a 24-hour curfew has been imposed.