netanya bomber 298.88.
(photo credit: Channel 2)
A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up outside Netanya's terrorism-battered Sharon Mall Monday, killing five and wounding at least 60.
The Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, responsible for the last five suicide bombings, claimed the attack in a telephone call to the Hizbullah-run Lebanese TV station, al-Manar.
Israel's security cabinet decided Monday night to launch "a major operation in Judea, Samaria and Gaza" against Islamic Jihad. The Palestinian Authority will also be punished by the cancellation of the VIP status granted leading politicians and security officials which enables them to travel on roads generally closed to Palestinians.
Israel also opted to delay the opening of the safe passage route that would have connected the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, according to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman, Asi Shariv.
One of the victims, Haim Amram, 26, from Netanya, worked as a security guard at the mall and was laid to rest on Monday night. A second fatality, Alexandra Zarnitzki, 65, from Netanya was buried at 1 p.m. on Tuesday at Kibbutz Chen, in Emek Hefer. The funeral of Daniel Golani, 45, from Nahariya held at 2:30 p.m. at the cemetery in Shikun Vatikim in Netanya. Eliyah Rozen, 38, from Bat Hefer, was also interred at 2:30; and the fifth victim, Keinan Tsuami, 20, from Petah Tikva, was laid to rest at 1:30 p.m. at the Segula cemetery in Petah Tikva.
It was the third suicide bombing outside the mall in four years, and rattled a city that has become Islamic Jihad's favorite target.
Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, condemned the attack and pushed for PA and regional action against the perpetrators.
"I urge the Palestinian Authority to arrest and judge those responsible for this attack," he said in a statement. "I also urge the countries in the region to use their influence to cease all support to armed Palestinian opposition groups."
The US, UN and UK, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, also issued sharp denunciations of the attack.
"The presidency utterly condemns this mindless act of terrorism in the strongest terms and offers our deep condolences to the families of the victims and sympathies to the injured," according to a statement issued by the UK's Foreign Office.
The attack was "aimed at innocent civilians and at derailing the peace process," according to the statement, which called on the PA "to bring those responsible to justice, and to exert every effort to prevent such attacks in the future."
Earlier, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the terrorist attack and vowed a crackdown on Islamic Jihad in the West Bank.
Nevertheless, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz accused the PA of failing to rein in the group and said Israel would do everything in its power to eradicate the group, according to a statement from his office.
Besides the large-scale strikes on Islamic Jihad strongholds in the West Bank, Mofaz is also pushing to overturn the ban on demolishing the homes of suicide bombers as a deterrent.
"This is a necessary step, so that everyone who even considers committing suicide knows there is a price for that," Mofaz told Army Radio.
Had it not been the courage of two security guards and two police officers, it would have been "a much more deadly bombing," said Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi.
Some 40 ambulances ferried the wounded to Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera and Kfar Saba's Meir Hospital. Most of the wounded received first aid within four minutes of the bombing, according to Magen David Adom spokesman Yeruham Mendola.
Shortly before noon, bystanders alerted guards outside the mall to a "suspicious" man trying to enter. Alert bystanders called attention to the bomber, later identified as Lotfi Abu Saada, 21, from the village of Illar, near Tulkarm.
Policewoman Shoshi Attiya began screaming, "He's a terrorist, stop him!" Eyewitness testimony conflicts, and some bystanders said they saw a van drop the bomber off and speed away.
Two guards at the mall's entrance, Haim Amram, 26, and Tanya Korliov, rushed to apprehend the man, who calmly walked away from them and the entrance. Another policeman rushed to the scene, but when Amram moved to inspect the Abu Saada's shoulder bag, he detonated it.
The force of the blast punched holes in the granite facade of the mall. Eyewitnesses saw Abu Saada's body fly into the air. The blast blew plate glass from the mall's upper stories 30 meters across Rehov Herzl and onto the Netanya Magistrate's Court plaza across the street. Blood ended up on the mall's upper stories as far as 30 meters away.
The bombing left a jumble of shredded clothes, torn plastic bags and flesh on the sidewalk. It also left Netanya residents with racked nerves.
Moshe Attiya (no relation to the policewoman) stood across the street from the mall, when a "strange-looking man caught my eye." He quickly dialed the police, but "I got cut off." In paralyzed horror he watched the bombing unfold. He saw the mall's security guards steer the bomber away from the building's entrance "and then the explosion hit me," said Attiya, knocked backward by the blast. "It was blinding. Even if I had wanted to see the sight I couldn't."
"I hope we have bombings everyday," said Yigal, 24, who runs a kiosk down the street from the mall's entrance. "That way someone might finally put a stop to this madness."
Police raised the level of alert nationwide following the attack and cast a wide net of checkpoints in the hopes of apprehending the bomber's driver or other terrorists involved.
They also beefed up security at entertainment spots and malls across the country, and police and the IDF increased their patrols of the seam line with the West Bank.
The bombing cast doubt on Israel's much-touted security barrier. Security officials have maintained the section of the fence completed in the northern part of the West Bank is essential to securing Israeli towns.
Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra defended the barrier, saying that to date no terrorist has penetrated it. However Israeli and Palestinian accomplices have smuggled bombers into Israel through crossing terminals meant for Israeli motorists.
Tawfiq Abu Husa, spokesman for the PA's Interior Ministry, said Abbas's promised crackdown on Islamic Jihad terrorists would begin "as soon as an investigation is concluded." He said he did not know when the investigation would be complete.
The Defense Ministry slammed the PA's efforts at curbing any of the terrorist groups in its territory.
British Ambassador Simon McDonald, Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, head of the delegation of the European Commission, and Austrian Charg d'Affairs Norbert Hack will lay a wreath at the scene of the bombing on behalf of the European Union tomorrow morning.
Yaakov Katz, Arieh O'Sullivan, Judy Siegel and Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.
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