- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

From combined dispatches

TEL AVIV An Israeli bus driver and a passenger pinned a Palestinian suicide bomber to the ground yesterday after spotting his explosives belt, then fled as the man blew himself up, killing a woman and injuring 12 others.

In a separate development, 20,000 Palestinian police and militiamen yesterday marched in a funeral procession in the Gaza Strip for a fellow officer who was kidnapped and killed by Hamas earlier this week.

The demonstration was the biggest Palestinian display of force in years and a clear warning to the militant Hamas group, a rival to Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority.

Violence also flared in the southern Gaza Strip, where Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian youths during a tank raid.

The suicide bombing on a major highway east of Tel Aviv and the army raid in the Rafah refugee camp fueled tensions that have already increased sharply this week, creating alarm in Washington as it seeks Arab support for a likely war on Iraq.

In the first suicide bombing in three weeks, the attacker targeted a suburban bus stop near Bar Ilan University during morning rush hour. Witnesses said the attacker tried to board a bus packed with soldiers, but slipped and fell onto the sidewalk.

The driver and a doctor got off the bus to help the man, but when they realized he was wearing a bomb belt they held him down and shouted for people to clear the area.

"He tried to move his legs," driver Baruch Neuman told Army Radio. "We began to fear that we would explode with him so we decided together to let go of his hands and flee."

The bomber then stood and ran about 20 yards from the bus toward a crowd of bystanders before setting off his explosives, killing himself and a 71-year-old Israeli woman.

Had the bomber succeeded in boarding the bus, the loss of life would have been "catastrophic," police spokesman Gil Kleiman said. "Those guys saved the day," he said of the driver and doctor who restrained the bomber.

The bombing was the latest in a wave of such attacks that have killed scores of Israelis during a 2-year-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

It followed four days of clashes in the Gaza Strip, in which 20 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during raids that the army says are intended to rein in militants, but which the Palestinians say have included many civilian casualties.

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