Deadly Suicide Bombing Strikes Israeli Town
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
It's the first suicide attack inside Israel since the withdrawal from Gaza. A Palestinian suicide bomber killed five Israelis and wounded more than 30 today in the town of Hadera. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility and said the attack was in response to Israel's assassination of one of its leaders earlier this week. The Bush administration condemned the bombing and urged the Palestinian Authority to disarm militant groups. NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.
LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:
The Barzi-Lye falafel stand(ph) in the middle of the open-air market in Hadera has been around longer than the State of Israel. At around 4 PM local time, 20-year-old Hassan Abu Zeid joined the line of people waiting for the sandwiches filled with balls of fried chickpeas. A few seconds later he blew himself up. Twisted metal from the falafel stand and several other shops lay in the street; shattered glass crunched underfoot. The victims' bodies lay on the street wrapped in white bags. Haim Rafolovski from the Israeli ambulance service says the open-air market was crowded.
Mr. HAIM RAFOLOVSKI (Israeli Ambulance Service): It's a marketplace. It's one day after two days of holidays. So most probably, as much as we know, the market was crowded with people that were doing their shopping just after the holiday, as I said. And then today, perhaps important to mention, is a vacation day for the schools. So many children were also involved in this incident.
GRADSTEIN: It was the first suicide bombing inside Israel in two months and the first since Israel completed its withdrawal from Gaza. The Islamic Jihad movement claimed responsibility and said the attack was in retaliation for Israel's killing of a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank on Sunday. Khader Habib, a leader of Islamic Jihad, told Al-Jazeera TV that the group was responsible.
(Soundbite of Al-Jazeera broadcast)
Mr. KHADER HABIB (Islamic Jihad): (Foreign language spoken)
GRADSTEIN: `The Israeli enemy is now reaping the fruits of the murder, terrorism and destruction against our Palestinian people that he planted,' Habib said.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas condemned the bombing. In a statement, he said it, quote, "harms the Palestinian interests and could widen the cycle of violence, chaos, extremism and bloodshed." Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat urged Israeli officials to resume peace talks.
Mr. SAEB EREKAT (Palestinian Official): We condemn the attack in Hadera, and we don't want to go back to this vicious cycle. Violence will breed violence, bullets will breed bullets. We've been there before.
GRADSTEIN: Israeli officials say they, too, want to resume negotiations and are committed to the US-backed road map to peace. But they say the road map also calls for the Palestinian Authority to disarm militant groups, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.
Mr. MARK REGEV (Spokesman, Israeli Foreign Ministry): I'd like to say that we weren't expecting this; that we were hopeful that we'd turned the corner with the Palestinians, that we're on a process of reconciliation, of moving forward. But, unfortunately, there are groups out there that don't want to see reconciliation, that don't want to see a negotiated solution.
GRADSTEIN: Also today, Israel's defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. Mofaz accepted an Egyptian proposal to reopen the Gaza-Egypt border crossing, which has been closed for more than a month. The move will ease travel restrictions on Palestinians in Gaza and facilitate the export of goods from Gaza. Linda Gradstein, NPR News.