- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2002

KARNEI SHOMRON, West Bank A large explosion, apparently set off by a suicide bomber, ripped through a pizzeria in a shopping mall crowded with Israeli teen-agers yesterday evening, killing three persons and wounding 27, six of them seriously.
The explosion capped a violent day in which four Palestinians also were killed. One of the Palestinians, a senior member of the Islamic militant group Hamas, was killed in an explosion blamed on Israel, and the group threatened retaliation.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a radical Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) faction, claimed responsibility for the mall explosion in a call to the Qatar-based satellite TV station Al Jazeera. The group identified the bomber as Sadek Abdel Hafeth, 18, from the West Bank town of Qalqilya.
The blast occurred shortly before 8 p.m. in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. It was the first time in 16 months of fighting that a settlement had been targeted in a bombing.
"I heard a large explosion … and I saw everyone running away," said Rachel Cohen, owner of a flower shop near the pizza restaurant. Mrs. Cohen said her husband, who uses a wheelchair and couldn't flee the scene, was injured in the blast.
An Israeli woman, a boy and the apparent assailant were killed.
Since September 2000, Palestinian militants have carried out two shooting attacks in settlements, one in Gaza and one in the West Bank.
It was not immediately clear how the bomber infiltrated Karnei Shomron, a settlement in the heart of the West Bank, between the Palestinian towns of Nablus and Qalqilya. Settlements are usually heavily guarded, ringed by fences, and have guards posted at entrance gates.
Residents complained that security around the shopping center was lax, despite repeated warnings that militants planned to carry out more attacks on Israelis.
The day began with the firing of a homemade Qassam-2 rocket from Gaza into Israel. The rocket landed in an open area and caused no injuries. However, Israel has warned it would retaliate harshly to such fire, and early last week, it carried out its most extensive military operation in Gaza in response to rocket fire. Five Palestinians were killed in the incursion.
Also yesterday, three Palestinians were killed in a gunbattle with Israeli forces in the Boureij refugee camp in central Gaza.
The Israeli military said the incursion into the camp was in response to Palestinian firing through a fence into Israel and a bomb attack on an Israeli tank in the area on Thursday. Three Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack.
In the West Bank town of Jenin, a leader of the Hamas military wing, Nazih Abu Sabaa, was killed yesterday in an explosion that Palestinians blamed on Israel.
Palestinian security officials said Mr. Abu Sabaa had left a school where he teaches and was walking near a parked car when the vehicle exploded. A 2-year-old Palestinian boy was slightly injured in the blast.
The car had been wired with explosives planted by Israel, the officials said. The Israeli army refused comment.
Thousands of Hamas supporters gathered around the mangled remains of the car, chanting "revenge, revenge," and Mr. Abu Sabaa's body was carried through the streets of the city.
"The Zionist enemy should know very clearly that all the crimes including this assassination will not pass without a strong reaction," said Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas spokesman.
The Israeli army announced yesterday that a soldier had been killed at an army checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah. In the attack, militants belonging to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah party shot the soldier dead and managed to wrestle a gun from another soldier before fleeing the scene.
Meanwhile, at a peace rally in Tel Aviv attended by thousands yesterday, Sari Nusseibeh, the PLO's representative in Jerusalem, urged Israel to renew peace talks with Mr. Arafat.
Such public appearances by Palestinian officials in Israel are extremely rare these days, and Mr. Nusseibeh's decision to participate underscored his emerging role as an important advocate for ending more than a year of deadly violence and resuming peace talks.
"We call on [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and Arafat enough blood, enough blood," Israeli opposition leader Yossi Sarid told at the rally, organized by his Meretz Party and other dovish groups.
Mr. Nusseibeh, a philosophy professor, is a scion of a prominent Palestinian family and was educated at Harvard and Oxford. In 1991, he emerged as a key Palestinian figure at the Madrid conference for peace in the Middle East, but in recent years he stayed out of public life until his appointment to his current job last summer.

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