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Monday, October 19, 1998 Published at 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK


World: Middle East

Israel blasts injure 59



Two explosions at a crowded bus station in the southern town of Beersheba have injured 59 people, including about 20 soldiers.


Jeremy Bowen: This attack comes at a time when real breakthroughs in the peace process are needed
The blasts come as the Middle East peace talks in Washington enter a crucial stage.

Two of the injured are said to be in a serious condition.

Israeli police say they have arrested a 25-year-old Palestinian man, who they say admitted carrying out the attack on his own.


[ image: Almost 60 people have been injured]
Almost 60 people have been injured
While not claiming responsibility for the attack, the founder of the militant Islamic group Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, said "what happened this morning is part of our continued resistance to the occupation of our land".

The explosions happened at 8am (0600 GMT) - at the height of the morning rush hour.

Witnesses told local radio they saw a young man throwing two hand-grenades at a crowded bus-stop, where many Israeli soldiers were waiting.

The radio reported that one of the grenades hit a bus full of passengers.

Hospital officials said that 51 people had been admitted with injuries.

Disruption to peace talks

The Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, was woken and told the news in Maryland, just outside Washington, where he is attending a peace summit with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.


Palestinian Negotiator Hanan Ashrawi: "This will play into the hands of the hardliners"
A spokesman for the prime minister has said he will continue with the summit, despite pressure from right-wing Israeli politicians to withdraw.

The spokesman, Aviv Bushinsky, said Mr Netanyahu believes "that this deed, this terrorist attack, strengthens the Israeli position in the negotiations with the Palestinians."

The negotiations were earlier extended for an unscheduled fifth day after the two leaders failed to reach an agreement over the weekend.

The talks reached an apparent impasse because of Israel's demands that the Palestinians provide more cast iron security guarantees before it agrees to withdraw from a further 13% of the West Bank.

Israeli Government spokesman, Moshe Fogel, said the attack underscored Israel's concerns about security issues in the region.


Israeli Government Spokesman Moshe Fogel: "Clearly a terrorist attack"
"We're certainly not going to transfer territory to the Palestinians and then have this territory exploited for terrorist attacks against us," he said in an interview with the BBC.

A spokesman for Mr Arafat condemned the attacks, calling them an attempt to sabotage the peace summit.

"The goal of the attack was to undermine efforts of [President] Clinton... at a time when efforts are being made to reach an agreement," said Ahmed Tibi.

Both sides have called for renewed efforts to reach an agreement.



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