Two Palestinians killed in suicide bomb attack on Israeli army base

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The Independent Online

Two Palestinian bombers were killed last night and at least five Israelis were wounded outside an Israeli army training camp at Pardes Hanna, north of Tel-Aviv.

The attempted attack came as Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister, launched a strategic review of security policy amid mounting criticism of his failure to stem the violence.

According to police reports, two Palestinians in a Mazda car were stopped by traffic police as they approached the training camp from Wadi Arra, a main road that passes through a belt of Israeli-Arab villages. A passenger got out and opened fire on the police, who shot back, killing the assailant. The second Palestinian then drove the car towards the base, blowing himself up when he was again challenged.

This latest attack was the climax of four days of violence and counter-violence that killed seven Israelis and eight Palestinians, including a local Hamas commander, Mahmoud Abu Sabaa, blown up on Saturday while driving to his wedding in the West Bank town of Jenin.

Earlier yesterday, Israeli F-16 warplanes and helicopter gunships fired rockets at empty Palestinian Authority buildings – Yasser Arafat's local office, a police station and the governor's residence – in the West Bank town of Nablus in response to a suicide bombing the night before. That attack killed two teenagers, a boy and a girl, at a pizza parlour in the Karnei Shomron settlement. Palestinians reported one child injured by the air strikes.

The Israeli girl, Keren Shatsky, killed while buying a pizza, was celebrating her 14th birthday. Residents of the settlement, between the Arab towns of Kalkiliya and Nablus, complained that the shopping centre where the bombing occurred was inadequately protected. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine announced that one of its fighters, Sadek Abdel Hafez, 20, launched the attack.

Israelis are becoming increasingly frustrated at the ingenuity of Palestinian bombers and gunmen and the vulnerability, if not ineptitude, of the Israeli military.

A tank was blown up in Gaza last week after protective plates had been removed from its hull; a paratrooper at a checkpoint was shot dead by gunmen, who stole a rifle from his fellow guard; and Saturday night's suicide bomber penetrated an unguarded shopping centre in a settlement surrounded by hostile Palestinian villages.

Ze'ev Schiff, a veteran defence analyst, wrote in the liberal daily Ha'aretz yesterday: "There is no escaping the conclusion that the Sharon government does not have any military solution to Palestinian terrorism and violence." Another military commentator, Alex Fishman, was just as scathing in the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot. "Israeli security policy is crumbling ... What only intensifies the pain is the fact that the army does not appear to be learning its lessons."

In a signed editorial headlined "We cannot go on like this", Amnon Dankner, editor of the tabloid Ma'ariv, wrote: "The Palestinians are taking the initiative, are surprising and managing to succeed, while the Israeli army is operating clumsily, with a feeling of complacency, routine and sloppiness ... This situation cannot continue for weeks and months more without something giving. If there is a policy, military or diplomatic, tactical or strategic, let it appear now."

Mr Sharon summoned his inner security cabinet into emergency session yesterday afternoon, but nothing new appears to have been decided.