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The BBC's Andrew Clark
"Sunday's bomb attack... a reminder to Mr Sharon of the problems ahead"
 real 56k

The BBC's Frank Gardner, in Jerusalem
"Hamas has vowed to carry out more attacks inside Israel"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke in Netanya
"The kind of attack Israelis dread"
 real 56k

Monday, 5 March, 2001, 06:52 GMT
Sharon links Arafat to bombing
Paramedics and police at scene of Netanya attack
Palestinian militants warn of more violence in Israel
Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon has accused forces loyal to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of involvement in bombings in Israel, including one which killed four people on Sunday.

The bomber was among the four who died in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya. About 45 people were injured in the attack.

It's clear they [the Palestinian Authority] are not taking any steps to prevent it

Ariel Sharon

No organisation has admitted responsibility for the attack, although suspicion is falling on the militant Palestinian organisation Hamas following recent threats - allegations rejected by a close aide to Mr Arafat.

At the same time hospital officials have reported the death of another Palestinian in a gun battle with Israeli forces in the West Bank.

Arafat accused

Mr Sharon told Israeli radio that some of Mr Arafat's closest aides were participating in the attacks, and he accused the Palestinian leader of doing nothing to stop them.

"We know very well that the most loyal forces of Arafat are involved in attacks," he was quoted as saying.

The device exploded shortly before 0900 [0700 GMT] in a crowded open-air market in the centre of Netanya.

Most of the casualties were Israelis. Police Commissioner Shlomo Aharonishki said the bomber was among a group of people standing at a pedestrian crossing opposite the city's central bus station when the explosive detonated.

The bomb was relatively small and was carried in a carrier bag, the commissioner told Israel radio.

But the force of the blast hurled a car into the air, and nearby shops were damaged.

Enraged Israelis set upon and critically wounded a Palestinian in an attempted lynching to avenge the attack, police said.

"After the explosion, a number of minorities (Arabs) fled to the market and some of the people of the market tried to attack them," Assistant Commander Aharon Franco told Israel Radio.

"A police force that arrived swiftly at the scene managed to prevent a lynching...even though one was seriously wounded and taken to hospital," he said.

Ground shook

One witness said he saw two police vans rushing toward the scene of the blast just before the bomb went off.

2001 bombs
4 March
Netanya, three dead
1 March
Taxi in northern Israel, one dead
8 February
Two car bombs in ultra-orthodox area of west Jerusalem
1 January
Hamas bomb injures at least 36 in Netanya
"Then I heard a loud explosion and the ground shook under me," Israel TV cameraman Kobi Lahamish said.

Another witness, Meir Mayos, was filling up his car at a nearby petrol station.

"There was smoke everywhere," he said. "I saw two people lying on the ground. I went to give them first aid but they were dead."

On Saturday, Hamas issued a statement that its members were poised to carry out suicide attacks once Mr Sharon took office.

Hamas was responsible for a previous attack in Netanya on New Year's Day which injured about 20 people.

Gun battle

In a separate incident, Palestinian hospital sources said Israeli soldiers had killed a Palestinian in an exchange of fire on the outskirts of the West Bank town of Jenin.

The body of Osman al-Baeawi, said to be in his early 20s, was found on a bypass road near the town.

In a separate incident, Palestinian hospital sources said Israeli soldiers had killed a Palestinian in an exchange of fire on the outskirts of the West Bank town of Jenin.

His death brings to at least 420 the number of people killed since the Israel-Palestinian fighting began more than five months ago: 342 of them Palestinians, 13 Israeli Arabs and 65 Israelis.

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See also:

04 Mar 01 | Middle East
Sharon clinches key coalition deal
03 Mar 01 | Middle East
Army chief warns Palestinians
01 Mar 01 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
01 Jan 01 | Middle East
Explosions rock Israeli town
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