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Two Attacks Target Tel Aviv

Israel: Bomb attached to a truck explodes at a fuel depot, but the blaze is quickly put out. A guard foils an attempt to blow up a nightclub.

May 24, 2002|From Times Wire Services

TEL AVIV — A bomb attached to a tanker truck exploded Thursday at a huge fuel depot near densely populated Tel Aviv, and a security guard foiled an attempt to blow up a packed nightclub with a car bomb early today.

The tanker attack was part of what experts said is a campaign by Palestinian militants to carry out a large-scale terror attack. Disasters were narrowly averted in both incidents.

On Thursday morning, the bomb went off under a tanker truck entering Israel's main fuel depot. Israeli officials said the bomb, apparently hidden on the truck, was detonated with a cell phone.

Tel Aviv police commander Yossi Sedbon said it was "a miracle" the blast did not ignite the huge fuel storage tanks.

Then, early today, a guard killed an attacker who apparently planned to blow up the Studio 49 club, where about 200 people were partying, Sedbon said.

The security guard, Eli Federman, 36, told reporters that he saw the car turn sharply and race toward the club, and he opened fire, hitting the driver.

Federman said the man started falling out of the car, setting off a blast. "Then I fired the rest of the bullets into his head," killing him, he said.

"A big tragedy was averted here," Sedbon said.

There was no claim of responsibility for either attempted attack.

In Gaza City early today, witnesses said Israeli troops entered the Zeitoun neighborhood and blew up three small factories. No one was hurt, and one person was arrested, they said.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment. The incursion followed several incidents of mortar and rocket fire at Jewish settlements in Gaza.

The blaze at the fuel depot underlined Israel's vulnerability to a large-scale attack on a strategic target. Despite decades of warnings by security experts and environmentalists, the depot remains located in the middle of Israel's most densely populated area, near Tel Aviv.

The blast set fire to diesel fuel that leaked from the tanker and burned the cab to a crisp, but firefighters were able to put out the blaze before it spread to above-ground tanks that contain millions of gallons of gas and other fuel.

Israeli TV showed a map with concentric circles starting at the depot, predicting widespread destruction throughout the Tel Aviv area if the depot had exploded.

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