The gunman who carried out the attempted hijack in Tel Aviv was shot dead instantly by soldiers who were travelling on the bus and standing in the street nearby. Onlookers cried: 'Death to the Arabs'.
The attack happened as Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State, in the region for peace talks, was meeting Shimon Peres, the Israeli Foreign Minsiter, in Jerusalem before leaving for Damascus. The two men were discussing the possibility of delaying the 13 December deadline, set for the start of Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho. Due to outstanding disagreements over security arrangements for Jewish settlers, the size of the Jericho area, and control of border crossings, Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, has signalled that he may accept a two-week delay in implementing the accord, according to PLO officials in Amman yesterday.
Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, has hinted that a delay is possible and Ehud Barak, Israel's chief of staff, said on Saturday that withdrawal on 13 December was doubtful.
The Tel Aviv attack will raise new fears in Israel that an increasingly bloody backlash against the peace agreement is now inevitable, and may lead to a fall-off in general Israeli public support as well as providing more fuel for settler anger. In recent days Jewish settlers have rampaged in the West Bank, killing a Palestinian in Hebron.
Attempting to pre-empt public fears, the Israeli government yesterday urged calm, saying violent sabotage had to be expected. Yosse Sarid, the Environment Minister, commenting on the Tel Aviv attack, said that although it was a violent incident, 'You have to remember it is the first of its kind since March.'
'The opponents to the accord among the zealots will take more and more extreme actions to prevent the implementation of the accord and the chance for the creation of a different reality between us and the Palestinians,' Yaacov Tsur, the Agriculture Minister, said after the weekly Cabinet meeting.
The extremist group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack in a leaflet issued in the occupied Gaza Strip.
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