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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 12:18 GMT
Israeli agents hit by suicide bomber
An Israeli border policeman checks the papers of a Palestinian woman
Israel is cracking down as suicide bombings mount
A suicide bomber has injured two members of the Israeli secret service and killed himself in northern Israel - hours after the country's prime minister approved radical plans to tighten security in Jerusalem.

Morad Abu al-Asal
The bomber has been identified as a Palestinian, Morad Abu al-Asal
The Israeli prime minister's office said the bomber pressed himself against a parked vehicle carrying two members of Shin Bet and detonated explosives.

The blast set alight the two men's Volkswagen van under a bridge between the Israeli Arab villages of Taibe and Tira, in the Kfar Sava area, about 100 metres from a crossing into the West Bank.

The attack was claimed by rival Palestinian militant groups who said the bomber had been an informer for Shin Bet before reverting to the Palestinian side.

Fatah role

Israeli media said the two agents, who received only light wounds, had been waiting to meet a Palestinian informer when they were attacked.

Israeli radio quoted Palestinian sources as saying the attack between Taibe and Tira had been a "very prestigious, very high-quality attack against Israeli security forces".

Both Islamic Jihad and the Fatah Movement - led by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's - said they were behind the attack.

They identified the bomber as 22-year-old Morad Abu al-Asal, and said he had informed for the Israelis for three months before the attack.

In another development, Israeli security forces arrested seven Palestinians in the West Bank overnight on suspicion of terrorist activity.

An army spokesman said they had been picked up near Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nablus, with one suspect near the latter town wearing a doctor's outfit.

He said that controls would have to be imposed on ambulances as a result.

Jerusalem plan

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon earlier approved a controversial plan to secure Jerusalem following a string of attacks by Palestinian militants.

The "Enveloping Jerusalem" plan calls for more fences, roadblocks and video surveillance equipment, as well as large numbers of extra police, to control access to the city from the West Bank.

Mr Sharon said he wanted the plan to encompass "greater Jerusalem", including the Jewish settlements of Gilo, Ma'aleh Adumim and Givat Ze'ev.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Mr Sharon blames Yasser Arafat for the attacks
He stressed that the plan would include both Jewish and Arab neighbourhoods of the city, thus maintaining Israel's claim to the whole city. The Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

The plan, which has still to be budgeted by the Israeli Government, was announced in the wake of Sunday's Jaffa Street suicide attack, which killed an elderly Israeli man and a suspected female Palestinian bomber.

A Palestinian official said the plan would not work because the problem was essentially political.

"Those who want to come in and blow themselves up will always find a way in," said Ziad Abu Zayyad, the Palestinian Minister of State for Jerusalem Affairs.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"The attacker pressed himself against an Israeli security van and then blew himself up"
See also:

30 Jan 02 | Middle East
Female bomber's mother speaks out
30 Jan 02 | Middle East
Profile: Israel's Shin Bet agency
26 Jan 02 | Middle East
Arafat urges end to attacks
29 Jan 02 | Middle East
Mystery over female 'suicide bomber'
29 Jan 02 | Middle East
Suspected militants arrested in raid
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