An article July 12 on a bombing in Tel Aviv misstated the date of the most recent previous Palestinian attack on Israeli territory. A rocket attack on June 28 killed a boy and a man in Sderot. (Published 7/14/04)
A bomb exploded early Sunday near a bus stop in Tel Aviv, killing an Israeli woman and injuring about 30 people. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the attack underscored the need for a massive barrier to separate Israelis and Palestinians, rejecting a ruling against the project two days ago by the International Court of Justice in The Hague as an "immoral and dangerous opinion."
"This morning's act of murder is the first to have occurred under the auspices of the opinion," Sharon said in his first public remarks on the ruling, which found that the West Bank barrier project is illegal and that large parts of it should be dismantled. "The opinion sends a deadly message that encourages terror on the one hand and prevents countries from protecting themselves on the other. The sacred right of the war on terror received a slap in the face."
Hassan Abu Libdeh, chief of staff for Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, said the government condemned the attack as "a counterproductive terrorist act." At the same time, he said, "The fence will never be a source of security for the Israeli government or the people. The only guaranteed source of security is peace between the two sides."
The blast was the first Palestinian attack in Israel since a double-suicide bombing March 14 at the seaport of Ashdod that killed 12 people, including the two attackers. It was also the first attack in Tel Aviv in more than 14 months. Police said the attack, at 7 a.m. Sunday, the start of the workweek in Israel, occurred when a bag containing a small amount of explosives hidden in weeds near a bus stop exploded just after a bus full of passengers had pulled away.
"Suddenly I heard a strong explosion, and I saw a screen of black smoke in front of me," the bus driver, Eyal Gazit, told Army Radio. "In the beginning I thought that a tire had exploded, but I saw that the windows had shattered, and I understood that it was a terror attack."
The bombing was a departure from the methods used in most attacks in Israel, in which Palestinian militant groups typically have deployed suicide bombers to restaurants, buses and other public places. Police would not say how the bomb was detonated, but in similar attacks, most notably a July 2002 bombing in a cafeteria at Jerusalem's Hebrew University that killed nine people, including five U.S. citizens, a cellular phone was used to trigger the explosion.
Israeli officials said the long period without an attack proved that the controversial barrier project -- a $1.7 billion, 450-mile complex of fences, walls, ditches and barbed wire that is about one-third complete -- was a necessary and effective shield against would-be attackers. The Israeli military's Web site asserts that from the beginning of the year through June 30, 79 Palestinian terror attacks were thwarted.
In recent months, the Israeli military also has waged an aggressive campaign against Palestinian militant groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The senior leadership of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, has been wiped out in Gaza, and top militants in the group and in the Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine have been killed in the West Bank city of Nablus, about 28 miles north of Jerusalem, in the last two weeks.
A cell of al-Aqsa, the military wing of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah political movement, asserted responsibility for Sunday's bombing, which killed Mayan Na'im, 19, an Israeli soldier who lived just south of Tel Aviv. The group said the attack was revenge for Israeli army operations in Nablus and Gaza.
"This says that we can reach every place, even when there is a fence," an al-Aqsa spokesman was quoted as telling the Associated Press. An al-Aqsa leader in Nablus contacted independently confirmed that the group was behind the attack.