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The BBC's Orla Guerin in Netanya
"This was a devastating attack on innocent civilians"
 real 56k

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Jerusalem
"It's been a very tough response indeed from the Israelis"
 real 56k

Dore Gold, senior adviser to Ariel Sharon
"What we have to do now is defend the people of Israel"
 real 56k

Hamas spokesman Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahaar
"It is not suicide, it is a matter of martyrism justified by the scholars of Islam"
 real 56k

Yasser Arafat's spokesman Marwan Kanafani
"I have always condemned killing of civilians"
 real 56k

Friday, 18 May, 2001, 22:41 GMT 23:41 UK
Israeli warplanes hit back
Searching for survivors in Ramallah
Palestinian rescue workers search for survivors in Ramallah
The Middle East has had one of its worst days of violence since the Palestinian uprising began eight months ago.

At least 15 Israelis and Palestinians have been killed and more than 100 people injured in total.

Israeli F16 warplane
Israel has used F16 aircraft for the first time in the current conflict
Israeli warplanes carried out two waves of attacks on Palestinian security and government offices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This was in response to a suicide bomb attack earlier on Friday on an Israeli shopping centre.

The Israeli prime minister's spokesman said the use of F16 aircraft for the first time in the current conflict was justified by the "seriousness" of the bomb attack on the coastal town of Netanya, in which six Israelis and the suicide bomber were killed.

Eight Palestinians were killed when the F16s, tanks and helicopter gunships bombed Palestinian buildings in the West Bank towns of Nablus and Ramallah.

In Nablus, the governor's office, police headquarters and a prison were hit, causing substantial damage.

Israeli police search the scene of a suicide bomb attack
An Israeli police explosives expert searches for evidence among the victims' bodies
Tulkarm - the home town of the young Palestinian suicide bomber - was also hit.

Israeli F16s and ships also bombed the headquarters of the small Palestinian naval force in Beit Lahia, in the north of the Gaza Strip.

Several thousand Palestinians took to the streets in Ramallah and the West Bank town of Bethlehem late on Friday in protest at the Israeli air strikes.

BBC Jerusalem correspondent Jon Leyne says the retaliation had been widely expected, but the scale of casualties and the use of F16 fighter jets marked a significant escalation of the conflict.

Escalating violence

As the violence escalated, a Jewish settler was shot dead and two others were injured when the car they were travelling in came under fire near Ramallah.

We are expecting more aggression from the Israeli side and more resistance from the Palestinian side

Hamas spokesman
Palestinian radio has reported that five children were wounded when Israeli soldiers fired on them as they played football near an Israeli guard post in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian militant group, Hamas, said it carried out the attack in Netanya, and has suggested that more will follow.

The Netanya bombing is the fruit of a new wave of incitation to hatred expressed by Yasser Arafat... The Palestinian Authority's official media [calls] day after day for the killing of Jews

Israeli spokesman Raanan Gissin
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said it was now more important than ever to revive the peace process and that he would be in touch with both sides.

Israeli Government spokesmen blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority for the bomb attack.

Raanan Gissin said the bombing was "the fruit of a new wave of incitations to hatred" by Mr Arafat and official Palestinian media.

A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority condemned "the murder of innocent Palestinian or Israeli civilians".

Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Al-Zahhar told the BBC that the deaths of the Israeli citizens was "justified by the Koran and justified by international law".

When asked if Hamas would carry out more attacks he said: "We are expecting more aggression from the Israeli side and more resistance from the Palestinian side".

The spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, said Israel was the aggressor in the conflict.

Hamas rally in Gaza
Hamas activists have promised further attacks
"Israel planted the violence by killing innocent people. Now Israel is harvesting the reaction," Sheikh Yassin said.

Netanya is only 10km from the West Bank and has been the target of a number of attacks by Palestinian militants in recent months.

Increased confrontation

The blast - and ensuing retaliation - come at a time when the conflict has been escalating.

Sequence of events
0830 GMT: Suicide bomber hits Netanya shopping centre
Jewish settler shot dead in the West Bank
Nablus and Ramallah hit by warplanes, helicopter gunships and artillery
Israeli strikes against Palestinian targets in Gaza
On Monday Israeli soldiers killed five Palestinian policemen in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Later in the week Israelis announced they were establishing outposts just within Palestinian-controlled parts of Gaza as a defensive move to prevent further attacks on Israel.

Friday's violence comes just as Israel made a gesture of goodwill by offering a partial compromise on the question of the expansion of Jewish settlements - a move the Palestinians have rejected.

The Palestinian leadership has consistently denied any connection with such attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took office in March with a mandate to bring security to Israel, but so far has failed to stop attacks on Jews both within Israel and on Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

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See also:

18 May 01 | Middle East
In pictures: Netanya suicide bombing
18 May 01 | Middle East
Sharon's tactics
18 May 01 | Middle East
Israel offers settler deal
16 May 01 | Middle East
Israel launches helicopter attacks
15 May 01 | Middle East
Bloodshed on Israel anniversary
15 May 01 | Media reports
Palestinian leader's speech: Excerpts
14 May 01 | Middle East
Palestinian fury over killings
14 May 01 | Middle East
The Mitchell report
15 May 01 | Middle East
Flashback: Palestine's catastrophe
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