Suicide revenge for Israeli raids

Bomber kills eight after 30 Palestinians die during Israeli army rampage
Click to follow

At least nine people were killed by a suicide bomber who attacked an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood in west Jerusalem last night, as the residents were gathering for prayers at the end of the sabbath.

At least nine people were killed by a suicide bomber who attacked an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood in west Jerusalem last night, as the residents were gathering for prayers at the end of the sabbath.

Palestinian militants had declared that they would avenge Israeli raids into West Bank refugee camps, in which 30 people were killed, but few expected such a ferocious and swift counter-attack.

Downtown Jerusalem was shaken by the large blast just after nightfall. It was the bloodiest suicide bombing in the city for three months.

The city's Beit Yisrael neighbourhood was lit by the flames that leapt into the air from a car that caught fire. It happened close to the Mahane Israel seminary, where up to 1,000 Jews meet every Saturday night to worship ­ only a few hundred yards from Arab east Jerusalem.

Israeli officials said that one of the dead was a one-year-old girl. In addition to the attacker, nine people were killed and more than 50 injured, they said, including a seven-year-old boy. Palestinian sources said the bomber was Mohammed Daragmeh, 20, a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, an affiliate of the Fatah movement and that he came from a refugee camp near Bethlehem.

Shortly after the bombing, an Israeli policeman on a motorcycle was shot dead in a Jewish settlement just outside Jerusalem, police said. The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade also claimed responsibility.

The bombing prompted depressing scenes on both sides of the conflict. Ultra-Orthodox men from the neighbourhood ­ close to Mea Sharim, which has been bombed several times in the intifada ­ chanted demands for the expulsion of Arabs from the occupied territories. And in Ramallah, eight miles to the north, Palestinians rallying to condemn the raids on the camps fired guns in the air in celebration.

The Palestinian Authority denounced the attack but it also blamed the Israeli government for its "policy of aggression". An Israeli government spokesman, Dore Gold, said it was "an act which had nothing to do with warfare, or national liberation, but with the murder of innocent Jews."

The al-Aqsa Brigades' strategy appears to be to steadily weaken the Israeli premier, Ariel Sharon, whose position in the polls is nose-diving, by repeatedly underscoring his failure to fulfil his promise to make Israel secure, despite his increasing use of force.

The suicide bombing came on a day of rising emotions about Israel's raids on the refugee camps in Jenin and Nablus. The Israeli army pulled back to the edge of a camp in Jenin yesterday but appeared poised to return. By late afternoon troops were still inside the Balata camp in Nablus, where 20,000 people are crammed into one square mile which has long been a smouldering core of opposition to Israeli occupation.

The Israeli army blasted into the camps early on Thursday in what it said was an effort to root out "terrorist" groups, and weapons caches.

Figures issued yesterday by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees painted a bloody picture of an attack that went well beyond armed Palestinian groups. The UN said that 28 people were killed, eight of whom were under 18, including three girls under 10, and that 231 people were injured, 35 seriously. The Israeli army said that about 30 gunmen and police had been killed and two Israeli soldiers were also killed. It made no mention of civilian deaths.

Doubts abound over whether the raids have achieved much.

The army said that it had seized dozens of weapons including bombs and make-shift rockets. But most of the gunmen from the camps appear to have escaped.

Comments