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Suicide Bomber Kills Girl in Israeli Restaurant Attack

Mideast: Nine other diners are hurt. Meanwhile, scattered deaths and injuries are reported by both Palestinians and Jews.

June 12, 2002|MEGAN K. STACK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

JERUSALEM — The man with the beard and the big green shirt sauntered into a steak restaurant in the coastal town of Herzliya on Tuesday, asked for a bottle of water and blew himself up. Ten wounded diners were hurried to the hospital as the sun set into the sea. A teenage girl survived for a few hours, then died of her wounds.

"It's horrible when innocent civilians--men, women and children--just out to get a bite to eat are hurt," said Yael German, mayor of the town near Tel Aviv. The dinner-time suicide attack capped a day of scattered civilian deaths and injuries among both Israelis and Palestinians, as low-level warfare simmered throughout Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Earlier, three 15-year-old Israeli boys were injured when a bomb exploded near the gate of an orchard in the West Bank. The high school students had spent the morning picking cherries and were waiting for a bus home when they stumbled across the bomb, apparently planted by Palestinian militants. Many Palestinian radicals object passionately to the growth of Israeli settlements on lands west of the Jordan River.

"We should remember that the Palestinians are trying to kill us everywhere," local councilman Zvi Bar-Hai told Israeli radio. "We should understand that this is war, and fight back."

The Palestinian government immediately condemned the Herzliya bombing. But Palestinians were grappling with deaths of their own. In the tiny Gazan village of Al Mograka, 8-year-old Hussein Matwi died when gunfire struck his family's home from the direction of a neighboring settlement. A second boy, 13, was badly injured in the shooting, Palestinian security officials said.

In a hospital in Egypt, a 17-year-old Palestinian boy died of wounds he suffered when he was shot last week near a Jewish settlement in Gaza. The boy's family lived near the settlement, and he was walking home when he was gunned down, Palestinians said.

In the morning, a 23-year-old man was blown up in a botched attempt to plant a bomb near an Israeli border fence southeast of Gaza City. Hamas, a radical Islamic organization, claimed that the accidental suicide bomber was a member of its military wing. He died just hours after another Hamas member was shot to death in the Gaza Strip after he opened fire on a passing convoy of Jewish settlers. Israeli soldiers guarding the procession of cars shot back, killing the 22-year-old militant.

On the main drag of East Jerusalem, a predominantly Arab area, an Israeli border policeman was seriously wounded Tuesday when a man slit his throat and disappeared into the crowd.

Amid the flurry of attacks, Israeli soldiers kept up a relentless siege of Ramallah, where Tuesday they arrested Abdul Rahim Mallouh, deputy secretary of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Mallouh is an assistant to Ahmed Saadat, who is in a Palestinian jail for allegedly plotting the October assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. The militant Saadat has been locked up for months even though he was never charged or tried. Last week, a Palestinian court found that no evidence linked Saadat to the crime, and it ordered him freed. But Israeli officials threatened to "bring justice to him" if he walked free, and Palestinians kept Saadat behind bars for his own protection.

Sixty other activists were taken into custody in Ramallah, and soldiers seized caches of bombs. The raid kept Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat locked down in the remains of his battered compound for a second day. Israeli soldiers also clamped a curfew on the city of Tulkarm and moved briefly into a refugee camp near Bethlehem.

In another West Bank city, Hebron, the bodies of two Palestinians suspected of feeding intelligence information to Israel turned up. Palestinian police found the pair of corpses in a field where an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade leader, Marwan Zalloum, was gunned down by an Israeli helicopter earlier this spring. The militant group, which is associated with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility.

As the unrest continued, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appeared Tuesday on Capitol Hill, which has been a reliable source of political and financial support for Israel.

Sharon thanked Congress for its "solidarity and backing" after a meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The committee's chairman, Joseph R. Biden (D-Del.), responded: "There is no disagreement in this country on support for Israel. We support Israel, period."

U.S. aid to Israel totals about $2.8 billion annually, and a bill pending in Congress would increase that amount by about $200 million.

Times staff writers Janet Hook and Robin Wright in Washington contributed to this report.

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