One Dead, 44 Wounded in Suicide Bombing at Israeli Mall

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - A security guard blocked the entrance of a suicide bomber to a store in a central Israeli city and paid with his life when the bomber blew up, police said on Monday.

Two people were killed including the guard and at least 44 people wounded in the terrorist attack in the central Israeli city of Kfar Saba less than an hour before the Knesset swore in Israel's new Defense Minister, former army chief of staff, Shaul Mofaz.

According to reports, a suicide bomber, equipped with a 10-kilogram (22 pound) bomb, full of shrapnel, blew himself up at the entrance to electrical appliance store in an open mall in the center of the city.

At least one person was seriously wounded, four moderately wounded and two babies were among the injured, media reports said.

Kfar Saba is just seven miles east of Tel Aviv and very close to the border of the Palestinian city of Kalkilya.

According to reports, there have been dozens of warnings of planned terror attacks in the last week, though none of them specifically mentioned the area where this attack occurred.

New Defense Minister

Mofaz, who directed the Israeli army as chief of staff until he retired in July, was accepted and sworn in by Israel's parliament as the new defense minister on Monday evening.

Mofaz is known for his hard line on dealing with the Palestinians and for wanting to oust Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

He is replacing Labor Party leader Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's largest coalition partner, who quit last week over a politically motivated budgetary dispute.

Sharon's minority government survived its first challenge since the Labor party quit in the form of three no-confidence motions in the Knesset on Monday, as was widely expected it would. The Labor party exit left him with just 55 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

It is still not clear if Israel's former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be joining the government as Sharon's foreign minister.

Sharon met with Netanyahu over the weekend and offered him the post. Netanyahu said he would join the government on the condition that Sharon call for early elections.

The charismatic Netanyahu, who rivals Sharon for the Likud party leadership, is known for his public relations skills in presenting Israel's case abroad.

On Monday, Sharon said "taking the nation to immediate elections would be irresponsible." His statement was widely interpreted as a rejection of Netanyahu's demand.

"I hope everyone acts responsibly and doesn't try to make it difficult for a stable government to function," Sharon told the Likud party faction.

Also during the Knesset session, the first openly gay member of Knesset was sworn in. Uzi Even replaces Meretz MK Amnon Rubinstein, who resigned from his position last week after 25 years as a parliamentarian.

Earlier in the day, two Palestinians were killed when their car exploded. The car, carrying 37-year-old Mohammed Sadr, a member of Hamas military wing who is on Israel's wanted list, and another unnamed Hamas militant, burst into flames in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Palestinians accused Israel of carrying out a targeted killing. The army had no comment on the incident.

According to wire reports, a crowd gathered around the remains of the car and chanted, "There is no God but Allah." Four bystanders were reportedly wounded in the incident.

Also on Monday, Palestinian militants fired a mortar shell at the Gaza Strip settlement of Neve Dekalim. There were no injuries but residents were ordered to enter their air-raid shelters for fear of further mortar attacks.

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