Palestinian suicide bomber wounds Israeli agents near West Bank border

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The Independent Online

A Palestinian suicide bomber threw himself on an Israeli vehicle parked close to the border with the West Bank, wounding two members of Israel's Shin Bet security service who were sitting inside, police said.

The attack took place under a bridge near the Israeli town of Taibe, about 100 meters (yards) from a checkpoint that separates Israel from the Palestinian town of Tulkarem in the West Bank.

A statement from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office, which is responsible for the Shin Bet, said the injured agents were on "an operational mission" when they were attacked and that further details of the incident were being investigated.

The latest bombing came a day after Israeli security officials presented Sharon with a plan aimed at tightening security in Jerusalem, the scene of two deadly Palestinian attacks in the past week, but there was no immediate decision whether to adopt the measures.

Frequent attacks in Jerusalem have led to calls to both tighten the closure that keeps most West Bank Palestinians out of the city and also find a way to limit the access of Palestinians in east Jerusalem to the city's Jewish western side.

The latter concept is politically delicate in Israel, since it annexed east Jerusalem shortly after seizing it in the 1967 Mideast war and claims the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their capital of a future state.

Any division would also pose logistical complications, since Israel has built Jewish neighborhoods all around the eastern sector, where about 200,000 Jews live – a number about equal to the city's Palestinian population. Creating a clean dividing line would be virtually impossible.

Security experts on Tuesday offered Sharon a plan that includes patrols, fences, and checkpoints, and the Haaretz daily and Israel TV said that the national security council chief, Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan, proposed building a wall 11 kilometers (6.6 miles) long.

But in a statement, Sharon opposed any physical division and said "the plan must be treated as a whole, covering the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods alike." He said it would include some Arab villages which fall under Palestinian civilian but Israeli security control.

Sharon aide Raanan Gissin acknowledged there would probably also be security checks, fences and "some kind" of checkpoints in some areas inside the city as well. But Public Security Minister Uzi Landau told Israel TV the main goal was to keep West Bank Palestinians out of Jerusalem.

On Sunday, a Palestinian bomber set off an explosive charge, killing herself and an 81–year–old Israeli man and injuring dozens in Jerusalem. A few days earlier, a Palestinian gunman opened fire nearby, killing two women. Over the past few months, there have been several other bloody suicide bomb and car bomb attacks as well in the city.

Sunday's bomber was initially identified as a woman studying in the West Bank town of Nablus but relatives on Wednesday revealed that she was 27–year–old Wafa Idris, a divorced paramedic from the Amari refugee camp in Ramallah.

Israel has taken some steps to counter the Palestinian claims to east Jerusalem, closing the PLO's Orient House headquarters there and banning some gatherings. But Palestinians note a division is more or less in effect already, since few Israelis dare to venture into the Arab areas.

In the West Bank town of Ramallah, where Israeli tanks maintained their positions outside Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters, virtually trapping him inside, Arafat on Tuesday addressed a delegation of Palestinians from Nablus.

Declaring that the Palestinians are "defending the dignity of the Islamic and Arab world," Arafat joined in a chant, "we're going to Jerusalem with millions of fighters."

Unable to make his usual visits to world capitals, Arafat has been making fiery speeches to supporters at his Ramallah headquarters almost daily, pledging victory in the Palestinian struggle with Israel, while his Cabinet has issued several statements calling for an end to attacks against Israelis.

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