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Tuesday, 5 March, 2002, 18:20 GMT
Suicide attacks trigger Israeli raids
Wrecked bus after Palestinian militant's attack
A suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus in Afula
Israeli helicopter gunships have hit Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in response to Palestinian attacks which left five Israelis dead.

Two Palestinians were killed when their car was hit by rockets fired from an Israeli helicopter in Ramallah, hours after gunships targeted Palestinian security buildings in Nablus, Ramallah and the Gaza Strip.

Israel's army said it was launching the attacks "in response to the recent wave of murderous terrorist attacks".

The air strikes came as a continuing cycle of violence saw a Palestinian suicide bomber blow himself up early on Tuesday on a bus in the northern Israeli town of Afula, killing himself and an Israeli and wounding up to 17 others.

Hours before, a Palestinian gunman had opened fire at a restaurant in Tel Aviv, killing three people and wounding about 25 others.

And in the West Bank, an Israeli woman died in a drive-by shooting south of Jerusalem.

After Israel's Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit said the Palestinians should be punished until they begged for a ceasefire, Palestinian cabinet secretary Abdel Ahmed Rahman said the response to escalation would be escalation.

In further violence on Tuesday:

  • Palestinian mortars fired from the Gaza Strip hit a residential neighbourhood in the southern Israeli town of Sderot
  • An explosion in Gaza City injured 15 Palestinians
  • A bomb exploded in the playground of a school in an Arab district of east Jerusalem, wounding a Palestinian teacher and several pupils. Israeli police blamed the attack on Jewish extremists
  • Israeli troops launched raids in the West Bank town of Hebron and Dura, a nearby Palestinian-controlled town. A Palestinian police officer was killed and 10 others were wounded in exchanges of fire

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has pledged to keep hitting back against attacks, adding that unless the Palestinian side "feel they have been defeated, it will be impossible to return to the negotiating table".

Counter-attacks

The current bloodshed is some of the worst since the Palestinians launched their intifada, or uprising, 17 months ago.


We were dancing and all of a sudden we heard gunshots, we all hid under the tables

Eyewitness in Tel Aviv
At least 16 Palestinians died in a series of Israeli raids on Monday.

The wife of a Palestinian militant and their three children were killed when an Israeli tank shell struck their car in Ramallah, in the West Bank.

The Israeli army later expressed "deep regret" over the incident, saying it had targeted a carload of armed Palestinians but hit civilians by mistake.

The Israeli raids were in response to the weekend killing by Palestinian militants of 21 Israelis.

Tel Aviv attack claim

Israeli radio said the al-Aqsa brigades, which are linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, had said they carried out the Tel Aviv restaurant attack.

Ariel Sharon
Mr Sharon has kept up his hardline rhetoric
The gunman stood at the window of the restaurant and then fired inside. He also stabbed people with a knife and threw a grenade which did not go off. A policeman then charged at the man and killed him.

"We were dancing and all of a sudden we heard gunshots. We all hid under the tables," said a survivor.

The assailant was identified as Ibrahim Hassouna, 20, an officer in the Palestinian naval police and a resident of the Balata refugee camp near the West Bank town of Nablus.

Despite the escalating violence, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is in Washington presenting a plan to host a summit between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

And the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, is visiting Saudi Arabia to discuss a Saudi peace plan aimed at halting the bloodshed.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jeremy Cooke in Jerusalem
"A day of bloodshed and death"
EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana
"The solution will have to be political, not military"
Fatah representative Marwan Barghouti
"We are facing a war from the Israeli side"
Israeli Minister of Justice Meir Shitreet
"We will take every step necessary to stop the terror attacks"
See also:

05 Mar 02 | Middle East
Head to head: Mid-East violence surges
05 Mar 02 | Middle East
Egypt pushes for Mid-East summit
05 Mar 02 | Middle East
Assad discusses Arab peace moves
04 Mar 02 | Media reports
Israeli cabinet clash over Arafat
03 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel on the defensive
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Q&A: Middle East conflict
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