Wed, Nov 03, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Israel unusually restrained after bombing

DELICATE TIME In a sign that it may be showing extra care with Arafat ill in Paris, Israel did not launch an immediate counterstrike after the bombing that killed three

AP , JERSALEM AND PARIS

Relatives of Palestinian Hisham Al-kabe, local head of the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, in the family house destroyed by Israeli army in Rojeb village yesterday. Israeli troops demolished the West Bank homes of three activists who it claims sent the bomber who carried out Tel Aviv suicide attack on Monday.

PHOTO: EPA

Israel was reacting with uncharacteristic calm after a suicide bombing on Monday in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian teenager killed three Israelis -- a test of Israel's pledge to show restraint in the wake of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's illness.

The 16-year-old bomber blew himself up on a narrow street in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market, crowded with simple stalls and stands, scattering bloody vegetables and spices on the ground.

The usual signs of an imminent Israeli military counterstrike were absent this time -- the hurried high-level security meetings and troop movements -- and it appeared that Israel would not hit back as it has in the past.

Early yesterday the army destroyed the homes of the bomber and those of two men Israel says were behind the attack, the army said.

Israel routinely destroys the homes of Palestinians involved in bombings, hoping it will act as a deterrent.

Using general terms, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon denounced the attack and pledged action.

Sharon said Israel "will not stop its war against terrorism" and repeated his commitment to unilaterally disengage from the Palestinians, pulling out of the Gaza Strip next year.

"I'm not changing my policy until there are changes in the Palestinian administration and until it stops its incitement and its terror," Sharon said.

Israeli officials had said they would show restraint in military operations to give the Palestinian leadership a chance to maintain order.

From his hospital bed, Arafat has swiftly condemned a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv -- a sign the ailing Palestinian leader wants to convey the impression he is still in charge despite deteriorating health.

Arafat appealed to "all Palestinian factions to avoid harming Israelis," his aide, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, quoted him as saying just hours after the bombing.

Abu Rdeneh relayed the statement to reporters as Arafat's wife, Suha, dictated it to him over his cellphone. Later, Arafat took the phone from his wife and asked Abu Rdeneh directly to make sure the statement was circulated.

Days after Arafat was rushed from his battered Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank to Paris for emergency treatment, Palestinian officials say their leader's condition has improved markedly -- and that he does not suffer from leukemia, cancer or any type of poisoning.

None of those conclusions have been publicly confirmed by French physicians involved in his treatment, who were expected to deliver their diagnosis as early as yesterday or as late as Thursday.

Only a handful of people have direct access to him in the hospital: his wife, Suha; his chief of staff, Ramzi Khoury; his nephew, Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Palestinian representative to the UN; and Leila Shahid, the Palestinian envoy to France.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath spoke to reporters after separate phone conversations with Suha Arafat and Leila Shahid. He quoted both as saying that Arafat's condition had improved and that he was eating well.

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