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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 23:46 GMT
Israeli jets hit Palestinian targets
Injured man in Tel Aviv
The attack follows a return to suicide bombing in Israel
Israeli warplanes have attacked targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, hours after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and wounded at least 14 bystanders in Tel Aviv.

The people of Israel cannot tolerate these kind of activities continuing

Israeli spokesman Dore Gold
In an apparent reprisal for the suicide bombing, Israel sent F-16 jets to bomb Palestinian security targets in Gaza City and the town of Tulkarm. At least one person was wounded.

Earlier on Friday, Israeli helicopters fired missiles in Gaza, killing a senior Islamic militant.

The latest violence came as US President George W Bush stepped up pressure on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat over an arms shipment the United States and Israel say was headed for the Palestinians.

The attack on Gaza targeted the Ansar security compound near Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's seaside headquarters.

The strike on Tulkarm levelled a building close to the governor's residence that had already been largely flattened earlier in the week.

The earlier blast in Tel Aviv happened in a shopping area near the disused central bus station, 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 militant Islamic Jihad group said it carried out the Tel Aviv attack, identifying the bomber as 18-year-old Safwat Khalil.

It was the first such attack in Israel since 2 December.

'Green light'

In recent days, Palestinian militant groups have announced a return to suicide attacks inside Israel - which they had suspended for a month - in retaliation for a spate of "targeted" assassinations of militants by Israel.

Sharon is getting a green light from the US to continue his aggressive and criminal policy

Fatah spokesman Hussein Sheikh
But Israeli spokesmen were quick to lay the blame for the suicide bombing at the door of Yasser Arafat, who is currently besieged by the Israeli army in his West Bank headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"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.

Palestinian leaders said the Israelis had been given a green light to launch air strikes by an apparent toughening of US policy against the Palestinians.

Burned out car belonging to slain Hamas leader Bakr Hamdan
A Hamas leader was killed by Israeli missiles on Thursday
President George W Bush met senior foreign policy advisers on Friday to discuss imposing punitive action against the Palestinian Authority in response to what the US says is "proof" that it was involved in smuggling Iranian arms to Gaza.

In other violence on Friday, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at Palestinian stone-throwers in 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 two Palestinian policemen were shot dead in a week of clashes.

The BBC's Helen Simms
"There seems no end to the escalating violence in the Middle East"
The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Jerusalem
"Israeli planes first struck Gaza City"
See also:

25 Jan 02 | Middle East
Suicide bomber strikes Tel Aviv
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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