- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2002

KARKUR JUNCTION, Israel Two Palestinians detonated a car bomb alongside an Israeli commuter bus yesterday, killing themselves and 14 others in an attack that could scuttle plans for a military pullback in the West Bank city of Hebron.
The bomb exploded about 4:30 p.m. while the bus was stopped at a roadside station to pick up a passenger en route to Tel Aviv from Israel's northern border. Fifty persons were injured.
The force of the blast hurled passengers dozens of feet into roadside shrubs and pushed the rear of the vehicle down an embankment. Police said the bomb contained about 130 pounds of explosives.
Police were searching for a vehicle believed to have directed the suicide bombers to the site.
Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack, while Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat issued a condemnation.
The attack comes as Israel's army prepares to move troops out of most of Hebron, making it the second West Bank city after Bethlehem where the Palestinian Authority will resume responsibility for security.
In June, Israel's army reoccupied West Bank cities in response to a string of terrorist attacks. The government responded to the last major assault by surrounding Mr. Arafat's Ramallah headquarters for a week.
"The government is considering pulling out of Hebron. We should understand what the risks are," said Public Security Minister Uzi Landau, who said he would recommend that the pullback be canceled. "As soon as we lift up the closures and provide [Palestinians] with work permits here, their response is by bombing a bus."
But Israeli television's military analyst Alon Ben David said the prevention of future bombings depends on better intelligence about Islamic Jihad rather than the enforcement of closures in Palestinian cities.
The terrorist cell that perpetrated the attack had carried out similar strikes by positioning car bombs alongside passenger buses, Israeli television reported.
The attack occurred on a highway frequently targeted by Palestinian terrorists because of its proximity, just three miles from the West Bank. The suicide bombers, who police said probably came from the West Bank city of Jenin, eluded dozens of security personnel using checkpoints and helicopters.
"This is Route 65, the road of trouble," said police spokesman Danny Kuffler. "Dozens of police are scattered around this road day and night trying to protect it. Today we didn't succeed."
On Saturday, a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated an explosive after police tried to apprehend him on the same road 10 miles north of yesterday's bombing. In recent weeks, Israeli police have received specific warnings of some 50 potential terrorist attacks in the planning stages.
The bombing caught Israel when its attention was focused on clashes between West Bank settlers and soldiers who had been ordered to dismantle an illegal outpost near the Palestinian city of Nablus.
Hundreds of settlers converged on the Havat Gilad outpost over the weekend to prevent the army from removing shipping-container shelters set up on the hilltop. Despite the mayhem, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said he is determined to remove dozens of illegal outposts established in the last year and a half.

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