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More Deadly Attacks Saturday in Israel - 2002-03-10


A fresh wave a violence has hit Israel, with at least 15 people killed and more than 80 wounded in two separate incidents. A suicide bomber attacked a cafe in Jerusalem, and two gunmen fired on a beachfront hotel.

The suicide bombing in Jerusalem came shortly after the end of the Jewish Sabbath, when people crowd into cafes and restaurants.

The suicide bomber set off his charge in the Moment cafe, a popular nightspot a block from the official residence of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was not there at the time.

Witnesses describe a scene of chaos and carnage. As rescue workers took away the dead, the stench of gunpowder still hung in the air.

Police mounted a huge security operation with roadblocks and helicopters shining spotlights across the city.

The Islamic militant group Hamas has claimed responsibility.

Just hours earlier, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on pedestrians and a hotel in the coastal city of Netanya. Dozens of people were wounded, including an infant who later died. Police shot and killed two assailants.

The Al Aqsa Brigade claimed responsibility. The group has ties to the Fatah organization of Palestinian Authority leader, Yasser Arafat.

Israel is vowing more retaliation for the attacks, as foreign ministry official Arie Mekle told VOA. "We are in the middle of a very serious operation against terror," he said. "We have actively used our military in the last few days both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to try and dismantle as much as possible the infrastructure of terror. And these operations will continue into the coming days."

Saturday's attacks came at the end of the deadliest week of fighting since the Palestinian uprising began in September 2000. On Friday alone, Israel's military killed at least 39 Palestinians after five Israeli teenagers were killed by a Palestinian gunman.

Israel launched air strikes Saturday on Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, bulldozed homes and rounded up hundreds of Palestinian men for interrogation.

The violence has escalated as President Bush prepares to send his Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni back to the region this week.

Prime Minister Sharon says he is now willing to discuss a cease-fire without his previous demand of a week of calm before the talks. Palestinian spokesman say Israel first must end its attacks before a truce can be negotiated.

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