Mon, Jul 12, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Explosion rocks Israel after four months respite

VIOLENCE Prime Minister Ariel Sharon blamed the World Court's decision that Israel's separation barrier was illegal for the attack, in which a woman was killed

AFP , TEL AVIV

A woman was killed and 20 people wounded as a bomb exploded at the start of the morning rush hour in Tel Aviv yesterday, in the first such attack by Palestinian militants inside Israel for nearly four months.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the attack was carried out "under the patronage" of a decision by the World Court which ruled on Friday that the West Bank separation barrier was illegal.

Emergency services rushed to the scene of the blast near a long-distance bus stop in Israel's commercial capital at around 7am and sped the badly injured to hospital.

A woman casualty was declared dead on arrival at hospital, police and medical sources said.

"One woman was killed and we have around 20 people injured," a spokesman for Tel Aviv police said.

Tel Aviv police chief Yossi Setbon said that a device had been concealed in shrubbery.

"It was caused by a charge which had been placed close to a bus stop, in the middle of bushes," he told reporters at the scene of the explosion. "A bus and nearby buildings were damaged."

Police and firefighters, using sniffer dogs, were searching the area for any other bombs and methodically gathering bolts and screws which had been packed into the device.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militant group linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah movement, swiftly claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to reporters.

A spokesman who declined to give his name said the bombing was carried out to avenge crimes committed by Israeli forces in the West Bank town of Nablus and in the Gaza Strip, where troops recently carried out deadly raids.

The attack came just two days after the International Court of Justice dealt a stunning blow to Israel by declaring its West Bank separation barrier illegal, and ruling that those parts of the structure built on Palestinian territory must be torn down.

The Israeli government has argued that the recent fall in attacks by Palestinians in Israel is a direct result of the barrier, about a third of which has been built so far.

Sharon made clear at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that his government would ignore the ruling, which he linked to yesterday's attack.

"An hour ago, an Israeli woman was murdered by Palestinian terrorist criminals and other civilians were killed. We are all praying for their wellbeing," the premier said.

"The murderous act that was carried out this morning was the first to occur under the patronage of the World Court's decision," Sharon said.

The last attack on Israeli soil came back on March 14, when 10 Israelis as well as two suicide bombers were killed in the southern port of Ashdod.

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