Mofaz blames Hamas-led PA for suicide bombing that killed four
IDF tightens closure on Nablus after Kedumim attack; bomber had been detained by PA until this month.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz blamed the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority on Friday for a suicide bombing the day before that killed four Israelis at the entrance to the settlement of Kedumim.
Mofaz has ordered the Israel Defense Forces and other security services to escalate their activities against terror in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The IDF tightened its closure on the nearby West Bank city of Nablus on Friday, in response to the attack.
The IDF is prohibiting Palestinian males between 15 and 32 from passing through the Hawara and Beit Iba checkpoints in the Nablus area, and is keeping Palestinians from reaching Nablus from the direction of Tul Karm and Jenin. The army is also conducting a full-body search of any Palestinian who passes through those checkpoints, Israel Radio reported.
The group that claimed responsibility for the attack - a new organization linked to Fatah, the movement headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas - is based in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. The group is called Kateb al-Shahid Chamuda. However, Al-Manar TV in Lebanon broadcast a claim of responsibility from the Fatah military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
Early Friday, IDF troops raided the Hebron home of the suicide bomber - Mahmoud Masharka, a 24-year-old Fatah man - and arrested his brother.
Israeli security forces said Friday that Masharka had been held until March by Palestinian security services, due to suspicions of his intentions to carry out attacks.
It appears the attack came as revenge for IDF killings of Fatah militants over the last few months. The cell to which Masharka belonged is also responsible for a suicide bombing attempt foiled on Wednesday near Nablus.
The bomber detonated explosives in a car at around 9:45 P.M. Thursday, next to a gas station in Kedumim. The Israeli casualties had apparently picked up the suicide bomber, who was likely dressed as an observant Jew, as he was hitchhiking on the road. He then exploded in their car.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw condemned the bombing on Friday.
"I utterly condemn last night's suicide attack in which four Israelis were killed in the northern West Bank. Our thoughts are with the families of those killed. We call on both sides to exhibit restraint and to work to prevent such deplorable acts by people who oppose peace and who seek to destabilize the area further."
Also Friday, Abbas condemned the bombing, but urged Western governments not to cease aid to the new Hamas-led government.
Abbas, on a visit to South Africa, also accused Israel of blocking peace and using the election victory by Hamas as an excuse for increased aggression against Palestinians.
Abbas said the suicide attack would not help bring peace. Hamas defended the attack as legitimate resistance.
"The Palestinian Authority does not accept it. We condemn it and we don't think it will help the peace process. We want to live in peace and stability and security, side by side with the Israelis," Abbas told a news conference in Cape Town.
Two of the victims were identified Friday as Ilana and Rafi Levy, 59 and 63 respectively, from Kedumim. They will be buried Sunday. The other fatalities are Shaked Lasker, a 16-year-old boy from Kedumim and Re'ut Feldman, 20, from Herzliya, both of whom were laid to rest on Friday afternoon.
It is not clear whether the terrorist got in the car at the entrance to Kedumim or rode with the Israeli victims to Kedumim from another location.
A rescue service official said medics could not approach the car, because it was still on fire nearly an hour after the blast. The blast scattered pieces of the car across a wide area.
Rafaela Segal, who lives in Kedumim, said she heard the blast from her house, from where she can see the gas station. "I saw thick smoke rising from the gas station and at first I thought the gas station was on fire," she said.
"Now all the roads are closed except for the emergency vehicles. The smoke has reached my windows," she told Israel Radio more than an hour after the blast. "Security forces are searching the area."
The Prime Minister's Office blamed the PA for the attack, PMO official David Baker told Haaretz.
"The PA, consistent with its revolving door policy, cut this terrorist loose, which brought about last nights attack. This is further proof that the PA is not taking any steps against terror," said Baker.