Israelis Suspect Suicide Bomber Came from Gaza
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
In Israel today, two Palestinian suicide bombers from the Gaza Strip struck a shopping area in the southern town of Dimona. One person was killed and 10 other were wounded.
NPR's Eric Westervelt reports it was the first suicide attack in Israel in more than a year.
ERIC WESTERVELT: One of the bombers blew himself up in an outdoor shopping area in downtown Dimona killing a woman. The casualty toll could have been higher, Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said, if a police officer hadn't shot the second bomber in the head before he could set off his explosives.
Abu Walid al-Shabarri(ph) with the Gaza al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said his group and the Gaza Popular Front carried out the attack. He said both of the bombers were in their early 20s and from the Gaza Strip. It's believed both men entered Israel after crossing the breached southern Gaza border and made their way across the unfenced Israel-Egypt frontier. In the southern Gaza city of Rafah, children celebrated the bombing by passing out flowers and baklava at traffic intersections.
Fawzi Barhoum, a senior spokesman for Hamas, which now controls Gaza, praised the attack, saying, we welcome such acts because they're an answer to Israeli aggression. Israeli government spokesman, David Baker, said the attack underscores, quote, "the brutal nature of Palestinian terror," adding, "Israel will take severe measures against any and all terrorists." He wouldn't elaborate on any Israeli response.
It's not clear if the remote working-class desert town of Dimona, home to Israel's nuclear reactor, was chosen for symbolic impact or was merely a target of opportunity. Israeli security official had warned of exactly this kind of attack ever since Hamas militants in Gaza blew up the southern border crossing letting tens of thousands of Palestinians cross into Egypt over the last 12 days.
Egypt moved to try to reseal the border yesterday, but late today, a firefight broke out at the crossing between masked Palestinian gunmen and Egyptian soldiers. After the Egyptians, witnesses say, tried to stop Palestinians from returning home. Gaza doctors say one Palestinian civilian was killed in the shooting.
Meantime, in a raid in the West Bank earlier in the day, Israeli soldiers killed two members of Islamic jihad. In statement, the Palestinian Authority, which recently re-launched peace talks with Israel, condemned both the Israeli raid and the suicide attack on Israeli civilians.
Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Jerusalem.
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