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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 16:45 GMT
Suicide bomber strikes Tel Aviv
Wounded man at the scene
The incident comes at the end of a week of tension
At least 14 people have been injured, two seriously, in a suicide bomb blast in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.


All the signs point to one of the extremist Palestinian groups but again, the responsibility belongs to the Palestinian Authority

Israeli foreign policy adviser Dore Gold
The explosion happened in a shopping area near the disused central bus station in the middle of the city, which is usually crowded before the Sabbath.

"A suicide bomber with an explosives belt blew himself up," Tel Aviv police chief Yossi Sedbon told reporters.

The incident comes at the end of a week of escalating tension, and follows a series of Israeli killings of Palestinian militants and Palestinian attacks against Israel.

But correspondents say this is the first suicide bombing in Israel since 2 December.

Police say they found the remains of a bag containing explosives and nails nearby.


The continuation of the Israeli assassination policy will lead to more violence and bloodshed.

Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina
Another bag was found a short distance away containing a weapon and ammunition, suggesting a second attack was planned. Several Palestinians have been detained by police for questioning.

In other violence, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at Palestinian stone-throwers in the West Bank city of Ramallah when hundreds took to the streets to protest against Israel's occupation and its killings of militants.

Palestinian hospital sources said 11 people were wounded.

It was later reported that Israeli tanks pulled out of the al-Tireh district of Ramallah, where a week of clashes resulted in two Palestinian policemen being shot dead.

Blaming Arafat

No one has said they carried out the attack in Tel Aviv.


But an Israeli spokesman said that ultimate responsibility lay with the Palestinian leadership.

"All the signs point to one of the extremist Palestinian groups but again, the responsibility belongs to the Palestinian Authority which is continuing a policy of terror," said Danny Ayalon, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's foreign policy adviser.

Another spokesman, Dore Gold, said the Israeli army would take its recommendations for retaliatory measures.

"What is clear is that the people of Israel cannot tolerate these kind of activities continuing, the loss of innocent civilians, because of a deliberate policy of terrorism against us," he said.

Meanwhile, in a statement made after the blast, the Palestinian Authority said it "condemns any action that harms Israeli civilians".

Fireman evacuating baby
People in the neighbourhood were evacuated
But before the blast, Palestinian official Nabil Abu Rudeina told reporters: "The continuation of the Israeli assassination policy will lead to more violence and bloodshed. The Israeli Government will bear the consequences."

The Islamic group Hamas has pledged retaliation following the killing of one of its leaders, Baker Hamdan, in a helicopter missile attack in the Gaza Strip overnight.

There were also reports that Israeli troops had shot dead two armed Hamas members as they tried to infiltrate the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif in Gaza.

Four other members of Hamas were killed in an Israeli raid in the West Bank town of Nablus earlier in the week.

Israel says its operations are necessary defensive measures, while the Palestinians say it is the Israeli action which is provoking the violence.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barbara Plett
"Israelis have been expecting an attack like this for days"
See also:

25 Jan 02 | Middle East
Hamas vows revenge for militant's death
25 Jan 02 | Middle East
US 'proves' Palestinian arms link
24 Jan 02 | Middle East
'Suicide squad' killed in Gaza blast
02 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are the suicide bombers?
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