Suicide Bombing Hits Israel as Iranian, Syrian Leaders Meet

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Fifteen people were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon.

Islamic Jihad, whose headquarters are in Damascus, reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, which came as Iran's president met with the leader of Syria -- in Damascus.

Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for the last six suicide bombings in Israel.

Senior prime ministerial advisor Dr. Ra'anan Gissin said the attack may have been intended to scuttle the P.A. elections; to elicit an Israeli response; or to deflect attention from Iran and Syria.

He blamed the P.A. for not taking action against terrorist groups in the year since P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas took office.

Thursday's attack comes less than a week before Palestinians are due to vote in Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections, in which Hamas and other Islamic groups are expected to score a big victory.

"Free elections and armed terrorist groups don't go together," said Gissin.

He said Israel is receiving dozens of terror alerts daily -- and "one of them got through."

Abbas negotiated a tense "period of calm" with terrorist groups last year and tried to persuade them to take part in the political system; but he refused to tackle the problem of illegal arms and the terrorist infrastructure head-on.

The attack also comes coincides with the meeting in Damascus between Iranian President Mohammed Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad, Gissin noted.

Ahmadinejad arrived in Damascus on Thursday on a two-day "solidarity" visit -- his first official trip since taking office last summer.

Both countries face the possibility of United Nations Security Council sanctions: Tehran because it has resumed its nuclear program; and Damascus because of its alleged role in the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister last year.

Both countries are backers of the Hizballah terrorist organization in Lebanon. Islamic Jihad is also headquartered in Damascus.

Speaking before Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Thursday's bombing, Gissin said if that group were indeed responsible for the attack, then the orders had come from Damascus.

One way to deflect the attention and pressure from the "terrorist regimes" would be to have a "couple of terror attacks in Israel," Gissin said.

Israel Radio quoted unnamed security sources as saying that Israeli forces have been working intensively against the Islamic Jihad infrastructure in the northern West Bank recently.

Islamic Jihad is being directed by the organization in Damascus and funded by Syria and Iran, the sources were quoted as saying.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there were no specific warnings of a pending terror attack in Tel Aviv. But there are general alerts in all cities, he said.

According to reports, a greater tragedy was prevented because not all of the explosives on the bomber's belt blew up.

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