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Sunday, 17 February, 2002, 21:15 GMT
Israel foils Palestinian attack
Israeli explosives experts examine the site for evidence
An Israeli army camp may have been the target
Israeli police have foiled an apparent bombing attempt in the northern town of Hadera after a shoot out and car chase left two Palestinians dead and three Israeli policemen injured.

Police said they had stopped a car carrying two Palestinians near the entrance to the Mahane Shmonim (Camp 80) army training base, believing it had been stolen.

The passenger got out and opened fire. Police returned fire and killed the man, who was found to have a bomb strapped to his body.

Another man sped away in a car but it blew up minutes later, leading police to conclude that it was also carrying some form of bomb.

Of the three Israelis hurt during the incident, one was reported to be seriously injured.

The Al-Aqsa Brigades, a militia affiliated to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, said it planned the attack.

One of their men was meant to detonate explosives on the army base while his accomplice sprayed it with rife fire, the militia said in a statement.

Tit-for-tat

Israeli Government spokesman Raanan Gissin warned that Israel would respond to the latest attack.

"No doubt we'll have to reassess the situation and take the necessary measures," he said.

The attack came hours after Israeli F-16 jets and helicopter gun ships struck Palestinian targets in the West Bank town of Nablus early on Sunday.

The Israeli strikes were in turn retaliating against a Palestinian suicide bombing which killed two Israeli teenagers and injured 27 on Saturday.

The Israeli army said it had hit four buildings in Nablus, including a Palestinian Authority office and a police compound. No casualties were reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has convened a meeting of the security cabinet to discuss the suicide attack, which targeted a Jewish settlement on the West Bank.

Meeting with security chiefs on Saturday night, Mr Sharon threatened to step up military operations.

"Israel has never lost a war and will win this one declared by the Palestinians," he said.

Crowded cafe

Injured Israeli after attack on West Bank Jewish settlement of Karnei Shomron
The suicide bomber in Karnei Shomron struck outside a crowded pizzeria

Officials from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said it had carried out Saturday's suicide bombing.

The dead suicide bomber was named by the PLFP as 18-year-old Sadek Abdel Hafeth, from the nearby town of Qalqilya.

He blew himself up at 2000 local time (1800GMT) on Saturday at Karnei Shomron, close to the northern border between the West Bank and Israel.

The bombing was the first time a West Bank settlement had been targeted in such an attack.

A pizzeria, crowded with young people out on a Saturday evening, was destroyed, with debris hanging from what remained of the ceiling.

"I heard a huge bang and everything fell apart," a worker at the pizzeria told Israeli Army radio.

Arafat blamed

Shimon Peres (left) and Ariel Sharon
Mr Sharon has vowed revenge for each attack
Israeli Government spokesman Avi Pazner said the attack in Karnei Shomron was "a continuation of the campaign of carnage and murder of Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority".

Mr Arafat has always denied Israeli accusations of complicity in such attacks.

Up to 20,000 Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday night for a rally organised by the left-wing non-governmental movement Peace Now.

The demonstrators called on the Israeli Government to pull out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and return to the negotiating table.

Peace Now march in Tel Aviv
It was the largest peace demonstration in 16 months
It was the largest peace demonstration since the beginning of the 16-month-old intifada.

Israeli opposition leader Yossi Sarid told the crowd: "We call on Sharon and Arafat - enough blood! Enough blood!"

Mr Arafat's representative in Jerusalem, Sari Nusseibeh, a moderate, also addressed the rally.

"Is there anyone to talk to? There is someone to talk to. He is the president of the Palestinian people," Mr Nusseibeh said, referring to Mr Arafat.

"Is the question what to talk about? [That] is also clear, and there's no other answer: We talk about two states for two peoples," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barbara Plett reports from Jerusalem
"There is growing criticism of Mr Sharon"
The BBC's Orla Guerin
looks at the aftermath of an earlier Palestinian suicide bombing near a pizzeria
Israeli government adviser, Dore Gold
"Israel is fighting a war of self defence"
See also:

25 Jan 02 | Middle East
Yasser Arafat's dilemma
16 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
02 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are the suicide bombers?
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