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Analysis: Ongoing Conflict Between Israelis and Palestinians

Middle East Conflict

BOB EDWARDS, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Bob Edwards.

Israeli security personnel are on high alert after yesterday's double suicide in Tel Aviv. It was the first suicide bombing in Israel in nearly a month. Two suicide bombers entered a foreign worker section of Tel Aviv and set off blasts that killed three and wounded more than 40 people. It was the second attack on civilians in two days and prompted the Israeli government to stop easing restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from Tel Aviv.

JULIE McCARTHY reporting:

`Terror returns' read the headlines. The scene at the small bar frequented by Romanian, Thai and Russian workers was grizzly--the blood of the victims mixed with spilt beer on the ground. Rescue workers zipped bodies into plastic bags. The young, dead bombers were sprawled on the sidewalk in a tableau Israel had begun to hope it would not see again now that its army has reoccupied the West Bank.

In front of the inaptly named Good Times Concession(ph), empty bottles rested on top of plastic tables where patrons had sat before they were scattered by the blast. Security officials called the double suicides `a carefully coordinated attack.' In this economically distressed section of Tel Aviv known as a center of nightlife for foreign workers, there are no private security guards. The bombed eatery was opened despite a law to close last night in order to mark the religious fast commemorating the destruction of Jewish temples. National police spokesman Gil Kleiman says that may have made it an attractive place to congregate but that did not determine the target.

Mr. GIL KLEIMAN (National Police Spokesman): The suicide bombing did not occur because the convenience store was open. If the convenience store had been closed, the suicide bomber would have found another target and blown himself up where there were people. We've seen this before. A cogent suicide bomber actually walks around the neighborhood, sees a spot that's not productive as far as he's concerned and goes to a more populated area. So I don't think that the store being open was the reason for the suicide bombings.

McCARTHY: The bombers wore clean shades and blue jeans as they approached their victims. They exploded two small five-kilo bombs simultaneously just feet from one another. One of the victims was an Israeli, two were foreign workers, as were most of the injured. Some 300,000 foreigners work in Israel, many replacing Palestinian laborers who have been banned from entering the country.

The double suicide left residents visibly shaken. Tears streamed down the face of 42-year-old Annette Segal(ph) as she watched medical teams lift bodies into cool ambulances in the hot night.

Ms. ANNETTE SEGAL: (Through Translator) I heard the bombings. I was a bit away and I came, and this is a place that I know. Every day I see this place. I see people here drinking, and I know that these people now don't exist. How can you go back to just your everyday life after this?

McCARTHY: The Israeli government said the Palestinian Authority was ultimately to blame. After two attacks in two days, the internal security minister said the proper response would be to, quote, "escalate the war on terror into the Palestinian hills and destroy the Palestinian Authority." Any thoughts about lifting the closures and introducing measures to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been frozen. Government spokesman Avi Pazner.

Mr. AVI PAZNER (Government Spokesman): We were thinking lately about facilitating life for ordinary Palestinians and we were planning already for some opening in the closure of the West Bank. But now with this new wave of terrorist activity, we'll have to reconsider these measures, and we may have to tighten security even further because this is the only deterrent regarding this situation.

McCARTHY: The Palestinian Authority decried the suicide bombings but Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat said the attacks underscored the tensions caused by Israel's reoccupation of Palestinian cities.

Mr. SAEB EREKAT (Palestinian Spokesman): I think that question now is up to the Israelis ...(unintelligible) to understand that military solution, subjugating, suffocating the Palestinian people will not work, will not provide security or peace for Palestinians or Israelis. And I believe the only way for us to get out of this vicious cycle is through a resumption of a meaningful peace process, is through ending the Israeli occupation.

McCARTHY: Just hours before the suicide bombers struck inside Israel, victims of the bus ambush at the Emmanuel settlement on the West Bank were being laid to rest, one too young to have a name. A sense of dread is returning to Israel with little in sight to signal a change in the tactics on either side. Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Tel Aviv.

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