IDF to operate in W. Bank, Gaza in response to attack

The Israel Defense Forces high command finalized on Wednesday night the outline of Israel’s response to a terrorist bombing in which five Israelis were killed and 30 were wounded in Hadera earlier in the day. The army is to operate on two fronts – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It is to impose a general curfew on the West Bank and all crossings into Palestinian-controlled areas will be closed. In addition, northern Samaria will be cut-off from the rest of the West Bank, and no Palestinian privately-owned vehicles will be allowed to travel in that area. An operation against Qassam rocket launchers in the northern Gaza Strip will be launched and ground forces will deploy for a possible incursion into the Strip. The IDF will not, at this stage, send ground forces into the Gaza Strip. Army sources said that military activity will target from now on Islamic Jihad. The sources also accused Damascus of encouraging and backing Jihad’s activity, saying that from now on the IDF is to assume complete responsibility over security in the West Bank, because the Palestinian Authority “is not delivering the goods.” Suicide bomber explodes in market A suicide bomber exploded in the open air market in the coastal city of Hadera a little before 4 P.M. Wednesday afternoon, killing five people and wounding some 30 others. Three of those killed in the attack were identified as Michael Koifman, Sabicha Nissim and Pirchiya Machluf. Five people were said to be in serious condition; another four sustained moderate wounds. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz was to hold a security consulation meeting on Wednesday evening to determine Israel’s response to the terror bombing. Defense sources believe the response to the attack will be limited to specific targets. Mofaz himself spoke briefly to reporters upon his return from a meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He said he briefed Mubarak on intelligence projections regarding possible terror attacks. “To my regret, the projections came true. We will do everything we can to strike out at the infrastructure of the organization that carried out this act of terror,” Mofaz said. The explosion occurred in front of a felafel stand at the entance to the market in downtown Hadera, a city that has been a frequent target of attacks during the past five years of violence. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack soon after the blast, saying the bombing was retaliation for the death of its military leader, Luay Sa’adi, in an Israel Defense Forces raid in the West Bank several days ago. Wednesday also marked the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Islamic Jihad chief Fathi Shekaki outside a Malta hotel in a mission widely attributed to Israel. “It is a natural retaliation for the Israeli crimes committed against our people, namely the crime against Luay Sa’adi,” Islamic Jihad spokesman Khader Habib told the AP. “The Islamic Jihad movement was committed to the truce, and is still committed to the truce, but this truce should be mutual. We cannot tolerate a one-sided truce.” Military sources, however, were quick to point out that a bomb attack of this magnitude took longer than three days to plan. The suicide bomber who carried out the attack was identified as a 20-year-old resident of the West Bank town of Qabatiyeh. The bomber’s name, Hassan Abu Zeid, was announced over a bullhorn in Qabatiyeh, residents said. Israel Radio reported he was released about one month ago from Israeli prison. A number of stalls were demolished in the explosion, the radio said. Some of the wounded received treatment on a nearby playing field. Magen David Adom ambulances evacuated the wounded to Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center in Hadera; Laniado Hospital in Netanya and Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava. “We are talking about a serious attack, and the number of wounded is relatively high, and the last of the wounded are being evacuated at this time,” said Yeruham Mendola, a spokesman for Magen David Adom. Dr. Meir Oren, medical director at Hillel Yaffeh, told Israel Radio that 20 of the wounded had been admitted. Six of them were in serious condition and four were moderately wounded, he said. It is the first bombing inside Israel since August 28, when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to Be’er Sheva’s central bus station, wounding 20 people. Israel blamed the attack on the Palestinian Authority’s failure to crack down on militants. IDF sappers searched the area around the site of the attack for additional bombs and roads out of the city were closed. In the immediate wake of the attack, police also boosted security in crowded public areas and on public transport. Highway 4 between Hadera and Netanya has been sealed off, Israel Radio said. Security forces are also checking cars travelling from Tel Aviv in the direction of Modi’in on Highway 443. Police said that there had not been specific intelligence of an attack in Hadera, but the number of officers had been increased following more general warnings.