- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

TULKARM, West Bank — A Palestinian bomber blew himself up yesterday, killing an Israeli army officer and two other Palestinians after Israeli soldiers ordered him to remove his overcoat at a West Bank checkpoint set up to foil the attack.

The Arabic satellite station Al Arabiya reported that Syrian-backed militant group Islamic Jihad had taken responsibility for the bombing. The report could not be confirmed, but the group earlier this week rebuffed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ appeal for an end to suicide bombings and rocket attacks.

In increasingly chaotic Gaza, meanwhile, Palestinian police were searching for a British human rights worker and her parents, who were kidnapped at gunpoint in the southern Gaza town of Rafah on Wednesday, and a gunfight erupted between two feuding families in Gaza City. A policeman and one of the family members were killed, hospital officials said.

The suicide bombing took place just south of the Palestinian town of Tulkarm, about two miles inside the West Bank. The army had set up roadblocks in the area shortly after receiving warnings that a suicide bomber was headed toward Israel.

The army said the bomber, an accomplice and the taxi driver were killed, along with a 21-year-old Israeli army officer, Lt. Uri Binamo. Seven Palestinians and three soldiers were wounded.

Palestinians identified the attacker as Ala a-Sadi, a 23-year-old police officer from the northern West Bank town of Jenin, whose family had links to Islamic Jihad. There was pandemonium at the family home, where relatives were trying to call a-Sadi on his cell phone with no success. No militant group released the name of the bomber, as has been the practice in the past.

Islamic Jihad has carried out all six suicide bombings since Israel and the Palestinians declared a cease-fire in February. Israel has been targeting Islamic Jihad leaders with arrest raids in the West Bank and air strikes in Gaza.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat condemned the bombing and called on all groups to honor the cease-fire.

“The Palestinian Authority is committed to the cessation of violence,” he said.

Violence in Gaza has increased since Israel completed its pullout in September, destroying its 21 settlements. Israeli artillery shelled northern Gaza for a second day after declaring a 6-square-mile area next to the border a “no-go” zone, an attempt to stop a rash of rocket firing by Palestinian militants.

In Gaza, Palestinian officials and militant groups condemned Wednesday’s abduction of British aid worker Kate Burton, 25, and her parents, but were unable to find the kidnappers or the victims.

“We are continuing our search efforts, and we will not stop until the British family is safely returned,” said Gaza police chief Alaa Hosni. Palestinian security set up roadblocks in Rafah and the nearby town of Khan Younis to inspect traffic moving through the area.

The kidnapping was the latest in a string of abductions of foreigners in recent months. In most cases, the kidnappers sought jobs in Palestinian security forces, the release of imprisoned relatives or other personal matters. In all cases, the victims were released unharmed.

Mr. Abbas’ critics have accused him of giving in to kidnappers’ demands, encouraging more abductions.

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