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Islamic Jihad calls Israel Bombing 'Gift to Iraqi People'


The militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad is describing its suicide bombing on Sunday in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya as a gift to the Iraqi people.

An Islamic Jihad statement says a member of its Jerusalem Brigade carried out Sunday's attack outside a crowded cafe in Netanya. The young bomber died and dozens of bystanders were injured, several of them seriously.

Sunday's bombing was the second suicide attack in Israel this month, and the first since the war in Iraq began. The Netanya bombing also follows a similar attack in Iraq a day earlier, when an Iraqi soldier driving a taxi blew himself up near American troops, killing four U.S. soldiers.

Islamic Jihad said the Netanya attack was a gift to the Iraqi people, and some of the group's leaders are vowing to step up terrorist attacks in Israel as part of a campaign of support for Iraq.

Several Israeli analysts predict that suicide bombings could soon become a part of the Iraq war, just as they have become an integral part of the two and a half year old Palestinian uprising against Israel.

Analyst Roni Shaked writes in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot that the culture of suicide, which he says has become a part of the Palestinian collective consciousness, is being exported. He predicts it is only a matter of time before the culture of suicide in Gaza and Nablus becomes part of the war in Basra and Baghdad.

Islamic Jihad has said it is sending a number of volunteers from Arab countries to Iraq to carry out suicide bombings against American and British forces. The group's leaders say they want to convince Arabs and Muslims around the world that there is a link between the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities say they are bracing for a possible new wave of bombings.

While Islamic Jihad is vowing to step up its attacks, another militant Palestinian group also on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, says it will not carry out attacks against Israel during the Iraq war. But local al-Aqsa commanders have said that Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza remain legitimate targets.