Israeli Gas Depot Targeted In Bomb Attack

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - It could have been much worse, Israeli police said: A bomb exploded under a gasoline tanker truck as it was filling up at Israel's largest petroleum depot in Tel Aviv Thursday.

There is a "high probability" that it was intended as a terror attack, said police spokesman Gil Kleiman, but he added that police have not ruled out other criminal motives.

The explosion, which damaged the truck but did not cause any casualties, came less than 12 hours after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a park in Rishon LeZion, south of Tel Aviv, killing two Israelis and wounding 36 others.

Israeli police were looking at "all possibilities" regarding the explosion at the Pi Glilot fuel depot on Thursday, police spokesman Kleiman said.

However, Avi Shubert, spokesman from Pi Glilot, said it was definitely a terrorist bomb.

Pi Glilot, which holds about 100 million tons of various fuels, supplies fuel to central and southern Israel. It is located less than a half mile from populous northern neighborhoods of Tel Aviv.

According to Shubert, the company had received only "general warnings" of the possibility of an attack since the beginning of the intifadah. It was the first time the fuel depot had ever been hit, he said.

The truck had just entered the depot to take on diesel fuel, when a bomb attached to it exploded. According to reports, a special sprinkler system in the depot quickly put out the fire.

There were unconfirmed reports that the blast had been set off by a cellular telephone. Terrorists have set off remote control devices in the past using cellular telephones.

Terror in the Park

The Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade linked to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb attack on Wednesday in which Almar Dzerbialov, 16, and Gary Tauzniaski, 65 were killed.

The PA, nevertheless, denounced the attack "calling upon the Palestinian people to declare their condemnation of such terrorist attacks, which constitute a certain danger to the Palestinian people."

The statement carried by the official PA news agency WAFA quoted the Palestinian leadership saying that the attack gives Israel an "excuse to continue its aggression [against] our people."

But Israeli officials said they were holding Arafat responsible for the attack and placed the blame on his shoulders.

"The Palestinians are continuing with a trail of terror attacks," said David Baker, an official in the prime minister's office. "It's a clear indication that the Palestinians are intent on a path of terror."

It was not clear what Israel's response would be to the attack. Since the end of its military operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank, Israel has continued to make short-term incursions into PA-controlled areas to arrest militants but has refrained from taking massive military action.

Baker said that Israel would "continue to take the necessary steps to thwart terror."

State Department official Lynn Cassel denounced the attack "in the strongest possible terms" and called on Arafat to show leadership . She warned that such attacks "could not help the Palesitnians achieve their national aspirations."

Police spokesman Kleiman said that the suicide bomber had apparently dyed or bleached his hair blonde to disguise his identity and avoid arousing suspicion. Witnesses, who saw the severed head after the blast, were quoted as describing his hairstyle as "punk."

Kleiman said there had been no specific or even general warnings that an attack was planned in Rishon LeZion.

The Wednesday night blast in a park where retirees and Russian immigrants sit to play chess and backgammon marked the second attack in Rishon LeZion in two weeks.

On May 7 a suicide bomber blew himself up in a billiards hall in Rishon LeZion, killing 15 Israelis. Previously, the city of 200,000, whose name means "the first to Zion" had remained untouched by attackers during the last 20 months of trouble.

More than 200 Israelis have been killed in nearly 60 suicide bomb attacks since the outbreak of the intifadah in September 2000. Some 1,397 Palestinians have been killed and 479 Israelis.

The attack in the park followed that Israeli targeted killing of three Palestinians in the Balata refugee camp outside of Nablus. Mahmood Titi, 30, Iyad Abu Hamdan, 22, and Imad Al-Khatib, 25, were killed by Israeli tank fire at the camp's cemetery.

Israeli military sources accused Titi of being responsible for terror attacks in which 11 Israelis were killed. An army statement said he and the others were carrying out "hostile terrorist activities" when they were killed.

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