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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 17:43 GMT
History of bomb blasts
Islamic militants
Hamas believe armed struggle is the only solution
By BBC News Online's Tom Housden

The deadly blast at central Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market has raised the spectre of a renewed campaign of bomb attacks in Israel.

It is exactly what many Israelis have been fearing most during a month of violent Arab-Israeli clashes.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin founded Hamas in 1987

For years, the Mahane Yehuda market has been a choice target for those trying to sabotage peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians.

It was the scene of a car bomb in November 1998 that killed two suicide bombers and wounded 21 other people. The militant Islamic group Hamas claimed responsibility.

And in July 1997, two militants blew themselves up in the area, killing themselves and 16 shoppers.

These two blasts were part of a spate of bombings in the mid-1990s which Israelis remember only too well.

The campaign began when a suicide bomb ascribed to Hamas exploded on a bus in Tel Aviv in October 1994, killing 22 people.

Spate of bombings

Then in January, 1995, 18 soldiers and one civilian were killed near Netanya by another militant group, Islamic Jihad.

A further two bus bombings in Ramat and Jerusalem during July and August of that year killed 10.

Tel Aviv bus bomb wreckage
The Tel Aviv bus bomb was the first a series of blasts
1996 saw the spiral of violence increase still further.

In February of that year, 26 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on the central bus station in Jerusalem.

On 3 March, another bus attack killed 18 on the city's Jaffa Road, with a nail bomb blast at a crowded shopping centre in Tel Aviv killing 13 people the next day.

Hamas support

Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack in Jerusalem.

Like Hamas, it fiercely opposes any form of peaceful settlement with Israel, and views violent confrontation with the Jewish state as a religious duty.

In May this year, Palestinian security officials arrested a senior Hamas leader, Mohammed Deif, in connection with the 1996 bombings.

Hamas demonstration
Popular support for Hamas is strong
Although this was followed by the discovery of a Hamas bomb factory in Nablus in August, attempts to curb the group's activity have been largely unsuccessful.

Israel has fiercely criticised the Palestinian Authority for releasing Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners during the month-old uprising, and says they bear direct responsibility for militant actions.

And last week, it emerged that supporters of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement seemed to be developing closer ties with Hamas, which raised questions over whether Mr Arafat himself may be adopting a more hardline stance against Israel.

Hamas is believed to have 15-20% support in the Gaza Strip and West Bank amongst many Palestinians who agree with its view that armed struggle is the only solution to their conflict with Israel.

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02 Nov 00 | Middle East
Bomb kills two in Jerusalem
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