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Woman Suspected as Latest Jerusalem Bomber - 2002-01-27

Israeli police suspect that the suicide bomber who killed at least one person and wounded scores more in downtown Jerusalem was a woman. A man's body was also discovered at the scene. On it, police found an Israeli identity card.

No local group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but the militant Islamic group Hezbollah has reported on its television station in Lebanon that the suicide bomber was a woman.

The broadcast identified her as a university student in the Palestinian-controlled city of Nablus in the West Bank.

Israeli police believe that this is the first time a woman has carried out a suicide bombing against the Jewish state.

Israel blames the attack on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, pointing to a speech he delivered Saturday in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he said he would be honored to be a shahid or martyr on the way to claiming Jerusalem.

Mr. Arafat, who has been confined to his headquarters in Ramallah since early December, also called several times for jihad - holy war.

Rana'an Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Sunday's attack "is a direct result of Arafat's declaration, shahid [martyr] declaration, that he carried out last night in Ramallah."

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo says the government of Prime Minister Sharon is to blame for the escalating violence, because of its policy of assassinating Palestinian militants.

"We think that the deterioration in the situation is the responsibility of Mr. Sharon and his Government. He has provoked these incidents," asserted Mr. Abed Rabbo.

The Palestinian Authority is urging the U.S. Government to send American peace envoy Anthony Zinni back to the region to help restore calm.