Palestinians Doing Nothing to Thwart Terror, Israel Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel blamed the Palestinian Authority on Monday for a suicide bombing outside a mall in the Israeli seaside city of Netanya, saying once again that the P.A. is not doing enough to stop the terrorists.

Islamic Jihad (backed by Iran and Syria) claimed responsibility for the morning attack that killed at least five people and wounded dozens more. (An earlier claim of responsibility by the al Aksa Martyrs Brigades of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction was denied by Fatah.)

Islamic Jihad also claimed responsibility for the last suicide bombing, in October, in the Israeli city of Hadera. That attack, which killed five people, happened after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be wiped off the map.

David Baker, an official in the prime minister's office, blamed the attack on the P.A.'s reluctance to crack down on terrorists.

"The P.A. once again refuses to take the steps to disarm terrorists and dismantle the infrastructure, and we see the results in Netanya," Baker said in a telephone interview.

Abbas' office released a statement condemning the attack and warning of repercussions against the perpetrators.

"This operation...against civilians causes the most serious harm to our commitment to the peace process, and the Palestinian Authority will not go easy on whomever is found to be responsible for this operation," it said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there were no specific warnings about an impending attack in Netanya or in any other Israeli city, although there were dozens of general warnings, sources said.

According to Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi, security guards around the mall prevented a greater tragedy by zeroing in on the terrorist before he entered the mall and calling him aside for a security check. The terrorist then triggered his device, which he was carrying in a bag.

Terrorists have targeted Netanya several times in the past. Five people were killed in a suicide bombing outside the same mall in July. Netanya also was the site of a particularly deadly attack several years ago when a suicide bomber entered a hotel and blew up the guests at a Passover Eve dinner.

Netanya is situated in the narrowest part of Israel, just nine miles from the West Bank city of Tulkaram.

Islamic Jihad said the bomber, 21-year-old Lutfi Amin Abu Salem, was from the village of Kafr Rai, which is about 10 miles from Tulkaram.

Prime Minister Sharon's spokesman Dr. Ra'anan Gissin has previously said that terrorists are shifting their operations to the West Bank, now that Israel has pulled out of the Gaza Strip.

Although the security fence separates Israel from the West Bank at Netanya, vehicles with yellow Israeli license plates are not subject to security checks when they cross into Israel.

That means a terrorist can infiltrate if the bomber is transported in a stolen Israeli car or if an Israeli agrees to bring a bomber across the border, wittingly or unwittingly. It's still not clear how the latest bomber arrived in Netanya, however.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called a special meeting of security officials, apparently to determine Israel's response to the suicide attack.

There were more attacks, of the hit-or-miss variety, over the weekend further south in Israel.

At least five Kassam rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, causing some property damage but no injuries, although some Israelis were treated for shock.

The Israeli army responded with artillery fire and the air force attacked three rocket-launching sites overnight on Saturday.

See Earlier Stories:
No Let-Up Against Terrorists, Israel Says (2 Nov. 2005)
Islamic Jihad Claims Responsibility for Suicide Attack in Israeli City (26 Oct. 2005)