Suicide Bomber Strikes Israeli Mall
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
There were two bombings in the Middle East today; one in Lebanon, aimed at the country's defense minister--we'll hear about that in just a few minutes.
First, to Israel, where a suicide bomber today blew himself up among a group of teen-agers at a mall in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya. Police say the attacker killed three people in addition to himself; dozens of people were wounded. Police say the bomber was a young Palestinian and a member of Islamic Jihad. This was the second suicide bombing since a cease-fire was declared five months ago. NPR's Linda Gradstein is in Netanya.
LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:
According to eyewitnesses, the bomber was in the middle of a crosswalk in a busy intersection in Netanya just in front of a shopping mall, and he blew himself up in a crowd of about six young people. One of the eyewitnesses said one of the dead was a young woman who had been carrying some books. Both of the people killed were women, according to police, and dozens were injured. There were about half a dozen cars with the windshields completely blown out, and the windows of the mall, about 20, 25 yards away, were also broken.
There was the usual debris that--what you see after these bombings. I saw the police who, you know, were cleaning up the scene, holding up a plastic bag with a pair of beach sandals in it. Netanya is a town on the beach. And a lot of the people that I spoke to in Netanya said that it sort of brings them back, that there had been this illusion, they said, that things had calmed down and now the bombing makes them question it.
Earlier today, at a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, another Palestinian tried to blow up a car bomb at the entrance to the Jewish settlement. Nobody was killed. The bomber was severely wounded and, according to police, he was also from Islamic Jihad.
SIEGEL: Yes. The Israeli police are blaming Islamic Jihad. Anything more about that that you can tell us?
GRADSTEIN: Well, Islamic Jihad has said that it does not see itself as bound by the five-month-old cease-fire. And at least according to Israeli media reports, Islamic Jihad said the attacks were in response to an Israeli campaign of arresting members of Islamic Jihad. There have been a few Israeli assassination attempts of members of Islamic Jihad, and Islamic Jihad said that it would continue the attacks.
The public security minister of Israel, Gideon Ezra, who was at the site of the bombing, said that it will not deter Israel from the planned withdrawal from Gaza, which is scheduled to take place a little over a month from now.
SIEGEL: But what about the cease-fire? Is it jeopardized by this bombing today?
GRADSTEIN: It's hard to say. I mean, this is the second bombing in five months. The first bombing occurred about two weeks into the cease-fire, and five Israelis were killed in Tel Aviv. In this case, it's two Israelis. You know, I think, you know, some of it will depend on the Israeli response. You heard Israeli officials in the media tonight saying that Israel should respond, that Israel should not let this one pass as they did the last one. After that first attack five months ago, there was not an Israeli response. It's really hard to tell.
Obviously, people are very angry. You know, the mayor was quite angry, and Israelis say that they want the government to do more to protect them. At the same time, Israeli security officials say that it's almost impossible to stop every single attack, and they say that the level of violence in the past five months has gone down dramatically.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas condemned the bombing. He called it a crime against the Palestinian people. Now the public security minister said that it's really the Palestinian responsibility to go after Islamic Jihad.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Linda Gradstein in Netanya, Israel.
Thank you, Linda.
GRADSTEIN: Thank you, Robert.
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