Blow to Abbas as five die in suicide attack

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The Independent Online

Five Israelis were last night killed by a 150kg truck bomb which was detonated by Palestinian militants at the Karni commercial crossing into Gaza. Three Palestinian militants were also killed in the ensuing gun battle.

Five Israelis were last night killed by a 150kg truck bomb which was detonated by Palestinian militants at the Karni commercial crossing into Gaza. Three Palestinian militants were also killed in the ensuing gun battle.

The bomb, detonated at around 10.45pm at a the crossing, which is routinely used by traders and aid agencies, underlines the difficulties faced by the new Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in trying to halt militant violence. The bombing is one of the most devastating since the death of Mr Abbas's predecessor, Yasser Arafat, in November.

The army said that the five Israeli victims were civilian port authority employees and that Palestinians had opened fire on the Israeli Army post at the crossing after the bombing.

Hospital officials said that they were treating three others who were seriously injured.

In a statement, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, affiliated with Mr Abbas' Fatah faction, said the fighters were killed "in a martyrdom operation". Hamas also claimed responsibility for what appeared to have been a joint operation. The Israeli Army indicated the crossing was open late at night in order to facilitate the transfer of goods.

Earlier, Mr Abbas promised that the Palestinian Authority was ready to fulfil demands made under the "road map" to peace. He said: "We are ready to implement our commitments [to the road map]. We hope the Israeli side will do the same."

Despite the continuing bloodshed in Gaza, Hassan Yusef, a moderate within the militant Hamas organisation, also sounded a positive note earlier on the day. Mr Yusef, said: "Hamas does not want to eliminate Israel. Hamas is a realistic political movement."

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