Four bombs explode in Jerusalem, injuring three

Monday, September 3, 2001


Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Four bombs exploded in Jerusalem early Monday -- two at virtually the same time during the morning rush hour -- and three people were lightly hurt, police and witnesses said.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a radical group whose leader was killed in an Israeli helicopter strike last week, claimed responsibility for the blasts.

In retaliation for the bombs, Israeli helicopters fired several missiles at a Palestinian security building in Dura, near the West Bank town of Hebron, the Israeli military said. Two members of the Palestinian security forces were injured, the building was badly damaged, and three cars were destroyed, Palestinians said.

Amid the latest violence, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said he was still working to set a time and place for possible truce talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Speaking on Israel radio Monday, Peres did not rule out a meeting with Arafat at a conference in Italy this week to which both have been invited.

Asked whether a cease-fire could be reached, Peres said: "That is my hope ... I think he (Arafat) also needs it. The uprising is not yielding so much fruit. On the other hand, it is yielding more and more fatalities, unfortunately, and is causing great hardship."

Meanwhile, Israeli Justice Minister Meir Sheetreet said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would be willing to dismantle Jewish settlements in exchange for real peace with the Palestinians.

But he also warned that the Israeli army could quickly retake all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip if the violence continues.

At a news conference, Sheetreet said that if the Palestinians returned to the negotiating table, "they will be surprised how far Sharon will go for peace."

He did not provide details, and it was not clear if he was referring to all of the settlements, or some of them. Israel has about 150 settlements and some 200,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In Jerusalem, three bombs went off in and around the northern part of the city called French Hill, police said. Two explosions occurred before dawn, and a bomb placed in a car went off shortly before 8 a.m., injuring one woman and scattering debris throughout the street.

The fourth bomb was placed in the back of a municipal pickup truck in French Hill, police said. A municipal worker, unaware of the bomb, drove the vehicle to the Gilo neighborhood in southern Jerusalem early Monday, and that bomb also exploded just before 8 a.m. Two people were lightly hurt.

In a leaflet, the PFLP said its military wing -- which it called the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigade -- carried out the attacks in retaliation for last week's killing.

PFLP leader Mustafa Zibri, widely known as Abu Ali Mustafa, had organized a string of car bombings, according to Israel. Army helicopters fired a pair of missiles through his office windows on Aug. 27, killing him instantly.

The PFLP has claimed, or been blamed, for about 10 bombings during the current round of Mideast violence, which began last September. No one has been killed in any of the blasts, and in most cases, the injuries have been few and light.

In more violence early Monday, an Israeli was shot and seriously wounded in a shooting attack on his vehicle south of the West Bank city of Hebron, the army and rescue services said. The man, Ron Shechner, was on his way home to the Jewish settlement of Yatir when his car was riddled with bullets in the ambush.

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