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Tension in Israel after two suicide bombings

Senior Israeli official warns more to come

The aftermath of Sunday's suicide bombing in Netanya, Israel
The aftermath of Sunday's suicide bombing in Netanya, Israel  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A senior Israeli intelligence officer warned Monday that he expects more suicide bombings, while Palestinians complained that Israel is imposing new restrictions on their movement.

The intelligence officer made the comment to a committee of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, the day after three Israelis were killed and 56 wounded in a suicide bombing in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya.

Then on Monday, a man believed to be a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at a bus stop in northern Israel. No other casualties were reported.

Witnesses said a suicide bomber dressed in an Israeli Army uniform detonated a powerful bomb at an open-air market at the entrance of Netanya -- the city where 29 Israelis were killed in a suicide bombing on March 27, the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

"I heard a huge boom and saw body parts flying," Eli Maimon told Army Radio, talking of Sunday's Netanya attack, according to Reuters. "He [the bomber] came in an army uniform."

"We were laughing about how the day had passed so quietly, and then suddenly there was an explosion," Avi Shemesh, a market vendor, told Reuters. "I saw blood everywhere, people staggering and a guy whose face was all burned."

The Israeli military was putting together information on the attack to present to the Israeli Cabinet for a response, said Dore Gold, senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Overnight, Israeli troops briefly entered seven Palestinian West Bank communities in a search for terrorist suspects, Israel Defense Forces said. The IDF did not confirm how many arrests were made but said all those detained were transferred to Israeli security forces for further investigation.

Two groups claim responsibility

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The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for the Netanya terror attack, warning Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to release the group's leader and pointing out that it had been able to penetrate the heart of Israel.

Ahmed Sa'adat, the head of the PFLP, is being held in a jail at Jericho under international supervision. He was one of six Palestinians transferred to the jail in exchange for Israel lifting its siege of Arafat's compound in Ramallah.

The siege was part of a five-week military operation launched by Israel after the Passover bombing in Netanya to root out what it called the "terrorist infrastructure" in the Palestinian territories in the West Bank.

The Hamas organization, in addition to the PFLP, also claimed responsibility for Sunday's Netanya bombing in an anonymous call to the Agence France Presse news agency in Jerusalem. Neither that claim, nor the PFLP's, could be verified.

Palestinians claim Israel imposes new restrictions

Arafat complained Monday that Israel had imposed new restrictions on Palestinians trying to move from one Palestinian town to another. He said the new restrictions on the movement of both people and goods was a "major effort" to impede the return to a political process for peace.

Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat said Israel had issued orders dividing the West Bank into "eight blocks, Gaza into four blocks," each with its own economic system.

As a result he said, a shipment of goods from Ramallah going to Nablus has to be unloaded at the border of one block and loaded onto another truck for delivery in the next block. A driver trying to transport a shipment of goods from Jericho, he said, has to have prior permission before traveling to Ramallah.

He added that Israel's housing minister had also approved the construction of 957 new housing units at Jewish settlements.

"What we feared all along the way is (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon not fighting terror; Sharon resuming occupation, sustaining occupation," said Erakat. "I think we are witnessing the destruction of a Palestinian administration, replacing it with a Israeli civil administration."

Over the weekend, several Palestinian Cabinet members offered to resign to make it easier for Arafat to enact reforms in the Palestinian Authority.

Arafat has not said what changes he will make or when. Erakat, who heads a committee working with the United States, the European Union and other countries, said an announcement could be expected "very soon" on reforms, probably beginning with the announcement of new local elections.

Arafat has been under pressure from within the Palestinian territories and from the United States and other countries to enact reforms. He has not said how much of the control he has over the Palestinian Authority he will give up.

Son of Palestinian militant leader killed in explosion

Mohammed Jihad Jibril in an undated photo.  

In Beirut, Lebanon, the son of the head of a Palestinian militant group was killed Monday when his car exploded.

The blast that killed Mohammed Jihad Jibril happened in the Mazraa neighborhood of West Beirut. No other injuries were reported.

Jibril's father, Ahmad Jibril, is head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. The younger Jibril, 40, was said to be the military commander of his father's group.

The cause of the blast is under investigation. A PFLP-GC spokesman told several news agencies that Israel was behind the attack. Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer strongly denied Israel had anything to do with the blast.

Yarden Vatikay, an aide to Ben-Eliezer, portrayed the charge of Israeli involvement as a knee-jerk reaction. "As usual, they blame Israel," he said.

The Arabic language television network Al-Jazeera reported a senior PFLP-GC commander suspected of involvement in the assassination was arrested in Beirut.

The PFLP-GC is a separate group from the PFLP headquartered in the West Bank, which claimed responsibility for Sunday's suicide bombing in Netanya.




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