Israelis disarm suicide bomber 'planning attack on Tel Aviv'

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The Independent Online

The arrest came as two Palestinian gunmen ambushed an Israeli civilian convoy, killing Dov and Rachel Kol, a couple in their fifties who were returning to Jerusalem after spending the sabbath with relatives in a Gaza settlement due to be evacuated next month. Security men with the cars shot the attackers dead. Three people were injured.

The apparent suicide bombing was averted after trackers spotted a hole in the Gaza border fence, prompting a massive search operation. Soldiers and police cornered Jihad Shehadeh, the would-be suicide bomber, in a field at Nir Am, a kibbutz just inside Israel. He was raising and lowering his arms in an apparent attempt to set off his bomb.

"We ordered him to undress and we gradually noticed wires and a belt," Colonel Avi Levy, a brigade commander, told reporters. The officers coaxed him into taking off the belt, which contained 5kg of explosives and hundreds of ball bearings. Sappers detonated it safely.

Shehadeh was reported to have said: "I came to blow myself up. I love life, but the future stinks."

He named two alleged accomplices, Israeli Arab citizens from Jaffa, who were remanded in custody.

The bomber is a nephew of Salah Shehadeh, a Hamas military commander killed along with 15 innocent bystanders in an Israeli air strike three years ago.

The Israelis could risk a non-lethal approach with Jihad Shehadeh as he was in a field isolated from civilians and seemed to have trouble activating his bomb.

"We prefer to take them alive," a security official told The Independent. "When they are alive, we can interrogate them." But he stressed that each case was different. "I'm not sure that a suspected bomber in the crowded Tel Aviv central bus station would get the same treatment."

Reacting to the two Gaza attacks, Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister, said: "Israel will not countenance this terrorism."

The last thing Mr Sharon wants is for the Gaza disengagement to be celebrated as a victory for Palestinian armed resistance.