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Four Women Murdered, Some Forty Injured Outside Crowded Shopping Mall In Netanya

Truck Bomb Attempt At Israeli Settlement; Hezbollah Opens Fire From South Lebanon - No Israeli casualties

Islamic Jihad Claims Responsibility - Israel Expected To Retaliate Against Islamic Jihad

PM Sharon

Islamic Jihad on the West Bank and Hezbollah in south Lebanon launched a series of attacks on Israeli targets - four Israelis - two women and two teen-age girls, were murdered by a suicide bomber outside a shopping center in Netanya, a seaside resort town on the Mediterranean. Another 40 were injured some critically. Just an hour or so earlier, a close call in a West Bank settlement when a Palestinian truck bomber drove in. However, it apparently caught fire prematurely, the injured suicide bomber was taken alive and given medical treatment. While all this was going on, Hezbollah gunmen opened fire from south Lebanon. There were no casualties in these two incidents. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held immediate consultation with security officials and reporter David Essing says Israel can be counted to retaliate against Islamic Jihad.

Have Palestinians now carried out a copy-cat attack after the simultaneous terror bombings in London? Israeli officials say it's still too early to say but they're not ruling it out.

Shortly after five o'clock in the evening at the Israeli settlement of Shavei-Shomron on the West Bank: A Palestinian suicide bomber in a pick up truck waits for the entry gate to open at the settlement and speeds through the barrier as an Israeli vehicle leaves. The suicide bomber is wearing an explosives belt and his vehicle contains several propane gas cylinders and a quantity of explosives. However, the truck bomb was apparently defective; it stalls on the side of the road and starts burning. Fearing a terror attack, Israeli security wait to see what happens before approaching to extinguish the fire and extract the suicide bomber who is given medical treatment.

6:45: Outside the entrance to the crowded Sharon (no connection) shopping mall in Netanya. Another Palestinian suicide bomber primed with an explosives belt apparently got out of a car and started walking toward the entrance to the shopping center. While on the pedestrian crosswalk, the terrorist apparently noticed the entrance was heavily guarded and decided to blow up his explosives then and there. Four Israelis - two women and two teen-age girls, were murdered and another 40 people were injured, 5 are in critical condition. Within fifteen minutes all the seriously injured were either being treated or being rushed to hospital. Security in Netanya was extremely high due to the Macabbia sporting events in the seaside town. The events are continuing without let up.

The Lebanese border a short time later: Hezbollah gunmen open fire across the frontier; Israeli forces fire back.The Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for the two terror attacks inside Israel. This organization has rejected the partial cease-fire initiated by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. His Palestinian Authority immediately condemned the Jihad bombings attacks saying 'it will continue to make a 100% effort to halt the attacks'. The 100 % means not lifting a finger other than preaching to the terrorists and trimming anti-Israeli incitement. In blasting the Islamic Jihad , Abbas said 'these were terror attacks against the Palestinian people'. The Jihad has identified the Netanya suicide bomber as an 18 year old male the West Bank town of Tul Kerem which is again under control of the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called urgent security consultations and Israel Police are going on a stepped alert. In light of the continuing attacks by Islamic Jihad, Israel will have no alternative but to react against this specific terror group. However, with the Gaza withdrawal less than 40 days away, the Israeli response will likely be calibrated so as not to derail the security coordination now underway with the Palestinian Authority for a smooth evacuation; Islamic Jihad wants to show the Palestinian people that its attacks are driving Israel out of the Gaza Strip. This is something Ariel Sharon will not accept. Since the current lull went into force last February, Israel has called off its counter-terror operations that kept the terror groups on the run. Similarly targeted killings of terrorist leaders have stopped; but after this evening's attacks, Islamic Jihad and its leaders will likely be back in Israel's crosshairs.

David Essing

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