- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

TEL AVIV A bomb attached to a tanker truck exploded yesterday at a huge fuel depot near densely populated Tel Aviv, part of what was called a relentless new campaign by Palestinian militants to carry out a large-scale terror attack.

Early today, an attacker tried to enter a nightclub in south Tel Aviv, but security guards shot and killed him, police and Israeli radio said. Tel Aviv police spokeswoman Shlomit Hertzberg said it was not clear whether he was carrying a bomb.

Witnesses said a car outside the club, called Studio 49, was damaged, apparently by an explosion. The spokeswoman said the attacker arrived at the club by car.

The blast at the fuel depot caused no injuries, but it set security officials on edge. Along with dozens of suicide bombings aimed at killing Israeli civilians, Palestinian militant groups are looking for a target of September 11 proportions, experts said.

"The terror organizations moved today to a new phase of attacks," said Ehud Yatom, a former Israeli security official. He told Israeli radio the attempted attack at Israel's biggest fuel depot was similar to the attack on the World Trade Center.

Israeli troops staged a brief incursion into Gaza City early today, destroying three factories before they pulled out, Palestinian security sources and witnesses told Agence France-Presse.

Several Israeli tanks and jeeps moved more than a mile into Palestinian territory, targeting factories in the industrial zone of Zeitoun in the south of Gaza City, security sources said.

Also this week, Israeli security officials released details of a thwarted plan to set off a ton of explosives under Tel Aviv's tallest office building complex.

On Wednesday night, a suicide bomber killed himself and two Israelis in Rishon Letzion, nine miles south of the fuel depot. A militia affiliated with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement claimed responsibility, while the Palestinian Authority denounced the bombing, saying it would give Israel an excuse to retaliate.

In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian laborer was fatally shot by Israeli forces, Palestinians said. It happened near the town of Rafah on the Gaza-Egypt border, the scene of almost-daily clashes. The Israeli military said soldiers fired at a Palestinian who threw a grenade at them.

In a political development yesterday, five members of the Palestinian Authority's Central Elections Committee submitted their resignations to Mr. Arafat after he failed to set a date for new elections, an official close to the panel said. There was no comment from the Palestinian leader's office.

Mr. Arafat has been under pressure from Israel, the United States, Europe and his own people to reform his corruption-ridden regime, call elections and streamline his security forces. Israeli and U.S. leaders insist he must work to prevent terror attacks by Palestinian militants.

The blast at the depot yesterday morning ignited diesel fuel spilling from the truck and left the cabin a melted wreck, but the flames were extinguished before they could spread to nearby tanks containing millions of gallons of fuel. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The fuel depot, next to residential areas and near sensitive Israeli intelligence installations, contains huge above-ground fuel tanks. Residents and environmentalists have long worried the depot might blow up accidentally or be the target of terror attacks.

Israeli TV showed a map with concentric circles starting at the Pi Glilot depot, predicting widespread destruction throughout the Tel Aviv area if the depot exploded.


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