Bombing, Political Indictment Rock Israel

A suicide bomber strikes in Beersheba in the first such attack since Israel evacuated Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. Also, the son of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is indicted on corruption charges tied to fundraising for Sharon's campaign.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

In Tel Aviv today, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's oldest son was indicted on charges of corruption during one of his father's election campaigns. Omri Sharon is suspected of setting up fictitious companies to conceal illegal campaign contributions during his father's 1999 race for the chairmanship of the Likud Party. The younger Sharon has agreed to waive his parliamentary immunity and the prosecution says he could serve time in jail.

Also today, in the southern city of Beersheba, a suicide bomber blew himself up in southern Israel, killing himself and seriously wounding two Israeli security guards. NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.

LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:

The blast in Beersheba was the first suicide bombing since Israel began its withdrawal from Gaza earlier this month. Just hours before the attack, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told Israel radio that the cease-fire reached with Israel last February would continue indefinitely.

According to Israeli officials, the suicide bomber asked the driver of a crowded bus near the central bus station if his bus went to Soroka Hospital. The driver said he was suspicious of the bomber who was carrying a large backpack. The driver directed the bomber to another area and alerted security guards who pursued the attacker until he set off the bomb.

The attack came three days after Israeli undercover troops killed five Palestinians in the West Bank during an arrest raid, three of them unarmed teen-agers.

Also today, the Israeli Cabinet approved the deployment of 750 Egyptian soldiers on the border between Gaza and Egypt to stop weapons smuggling. The arrangement is a step toward enabling Israeli troops to withdraw completely from Gaza.

This past week, Israel completed evacuations of all settlements in Gaza, and today they began removing graves from the Jewish settlements and transferring them to Israel. Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Jerusalem.

HANSEN: It's 18 minutes past the hour.

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