JERUSALEM — The commander of Israel's armed forces charged Wednesday that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority is ordering attacks against Israel, and a few hours later Tel Aviv police safely detonated a bomb on a downtown street.
"The authority is being converted into a terrorist entity," said Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, the military chief of staff, charging that "senior security officials" are directing attacks against Israel by militias that are "operational arms" of the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli officials have complained that Arafat has encouraged, or at least not stopped, armed attacks by Palestinians during five months of violence, but this was the first time that Israel accused Arafat's quasi-government of having adopted terrorism as a policy.
Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi called the accusations "wrong and misleading." She said people under occupation have the right to resist, adding, "From what I understand, there is no central decision" about armed attacks. The violence erupted in late September after peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down.
Violence persisted Wednesday in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In Tel Aviv, a passerby spotted an abandoned plastic bag and alerted police. After clearing the area, police used a robot to detonate the bomb inside. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
In the Gaza Strip, a 5-year-old girl playing outside a kindergarten was critically wounded by an Israeli bullet, Palestinian officials said. The Israeli military, which said that soldiers were returning Palestinian fire, ordered an investigation.