Hamas claims bus attack, but al-Aqsa
Brigades implicate Arafat
A limited IDF
incursion into Bethlehem ended Friday morning after a pre-dawn sweep led
to the capture of a dozen
terrorist suspects, less than 24 hours after a Palestinian
Authority traffic policeman from the town detonated a
7-kilo explosive device
concealed in a backpack at the rear of
a crowded Jerusalem bus.
Ten people were
killed and some 50 wounded in the latest suicide bombing to rock the
Israeli capital, more than half of whom are still hospitalized, over a
dozen of them seriously.
The Bethlehem raid only lasted a
few hours with some 15 armored vehicles taking part, backing up
troops who prepared to demolish
the suicide bomber’s house, which had been evacuated by family members
in advance, anticipating the reprisal.
was launched after we made clear the Palestinians had not fulfilled
their obligations to stop terror, something which was made clear in
yesterday's bombing," an army spokeswoman said shortly after
IDF forces instructed
Palestinian security officers to abandon checkpoints outside Bethlehem
and allow troops to move into the city.
followed a decision by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to make a
“tactical rather than strategic" response to the attack, resisting
pressure from the Shin Bet security services to renew a
full closure on the territories
and continuing to allow some 30,000 Palestinian workers to enter Israel.
the attack just before 9am Thursday morning the
al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
issued a statement claiming bomber
Ali Yusuf Jaara as one of their
members, and declaring that the blast was intended
"to show the Zionist enemy that the separation fence would not bring
pictures of the scene taken by a Reuters cameraman shortly after the
blast were quickly posted on the Foreign Ministry website, in the belief
that they, better than anything else, would show
why Israel needs a security
barrier to stop the bombers.
"The fence is
Israel's response to terror," said Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.
“All those who criticize Israel
for building the fence should take a good look at this morning's
pictures from Jerusalem," read the Foreign Ministry website.
By Friday Hamas had also taken
responsibility for the bombing which ripped apart a packed number
19 bus in the upscale neighborhood of Rehavia, apparently confirming the
swift denials issued late Thursday by other figures from the PA-linked
al-Aqsa Brigades in Ramallah. It is not the first time elements within
two competing terrorist factions have
simultaneously claimed and
denied responsibility for attacks, a trend that security
officials believe indicates increasing co-operation between disparate
cells bidding to evade ever tightening Israeli security, provided, to a
large extent, by the completed sections of the fence.
Bethlehem - one of only two cities under full PA security control,
Jaara’s father Munir talked of the family pride in their 24-year old
son, calling the bombing a "heroic operation."
"My son is a hero and we are
proud of what he did," Munir told The Jerusalem Post. "The
crimes of the Israeli occupation push young Palestinians to carry out
such attacks." As he was speaking,
scores of Palestinians
well-wishers arrived at his home to congratulate him on the
"martyrdom" of his son.
Ireland, Ali Jaara's uncle, Jihad, one of the Brigades leading figures
in the Bethlehem area told reporters that he, too, was proud of his
nephew’s action in response to Israeli “crimes against the
Palestinians." Jihad was deported together with a dozen other
Palestinian gunmen after forcibly occupying the Church of the Nativity
in a bid to avoid arrest in the spring 2002.
According to a
report published over Christmas by The Los Angeles Times the
Palestinian terror groups have been quietly migrating to Bethlehem since
Israeli soldiers pulled out of the town over the summer, openly
operating under the watchful
protection of the PA police.
Speaking of the
“mutual respect’ and “excellent relations” with the PA police in
Bethlehem al-Aqsa Brigades leader Abu Hussein told The Times that
both take their orders from Ramallah.
“We're all under the
instructions of the president," he said in late December,
confirming the direct link that Israel asserts exists between the
terrorist group and PA leader
NO COMMENT -
UN Security Council diplomats failed to
agree on a press statement condemning Thursday's suicide bombing of a
bus in Jerusalem, which Israel called "outrageous," according to the AP.
Council diplomats said three hours of closed-door negotiations Thursday
fell apart when Algeria, the only Arab nation on the council, insisted
that any statement must also condemn the deaths of eight Palestinians,
among them at least five Islamic Jihad gunmen who opened fire on IDF
troops operating in Gaza City on Wednesday. The suicide bomber, a
Palestinian Authority traffic policeman from Bethlehem said in a note
that he was avenging the Gaza deaths.
- UN Chief Kofi Annan called on Wednesday for urgent international aid
to relieve the plight of the Palestinian people, and forestall the
collapse of the Palestinian Authority. "We share our concern about the
economic, social and humanitarian situation of the Palestinians," Annan
said after talks with Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, whose country
holds the rotating European Union presidency. "I appealed for additional
support for them, because I am afraid that if the situation continues,
we will see real despair and perhaps even partial collapse of the
Palestinian Authority," Annan told reporters.