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Terrorist Gang Arrested in Gaza, Averting Planned Suicide Attack

The arrest of a terrorist ring in the Gaza Strip this week averted a suicide attack in Tel Aviv, security sources said Tuesday.

According to Voice of Israel Radio, a member of the gang planned to blow himself up with a bomb in the Tel Aviv central bus station. The cell is believed affiliated with Al Fatah, the terrorist arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The terrorists rounded up are residents of Deir el-Balah, Khan Yunis and Rafah, the report said. They are suspected of several attacks this year, including a bomb explosion in a Rishon le-Zion schoolyard in February and a March bombing near a military roadblock at Deir el-Balah, in which four Israel Defense Force soldiers were wounded.

Members of the ring also are believed to have planted a bomb on an Egged bus in Rehovot on March 28 and a road mine near an army gasoline station at Rafah at about the same time.

Meanwhile, relations worsened between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank, after a gasoline bomb was thrown at an Egged bus Tuesday evening as it approached the Jewish settlement of Pesagot, near Ramallah.

Shlomo Firber, secretary of the settlement, said it was the fifth gasoline bomb thrown in the vicinity in the past two months.

An Arab passerby was arrested and held apparently as an eyewitness. This triggered unrest in the nearby Arab town of El-Birch. Dozens of women marched toward Pesagot. They were turned back by security guards.

IDF CHIEF CRITICIZES SETTLERS

Relations also soured between settlers and the IDF. The settlers protested remarks attributed to the IDF chief of staff, Gen. Dan Shomron. Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Shomron criticized the settlers’ involvement in confrontations with Arabs in the administered territories.

Voice of Israel Radio quoted the chief of staff as saying the settlers were at least partly responsible for continuing tension in the West Bank. But an IDF spokesman issued a statement later saying the quote was not accurate. He did not, however, say what Shomron’s exact words were.

Shomron told the Knesset committee that relative calm has been restored to the territories, partly because the Arab population no longer blindly follows instructions by the Palestinian underground leadership to create disorder on certain dates.

Shomron’s assessment was borne out by the ease with which the Israeli civil administration in the Gaza Strip began its extensive replacement of the identity cards of tens of thousands of Palestinian residents.

About 2,000 new ID cards were issued Tuesday, reportedly with no disturbances, despite efforts by nationalist elements to disrupt the operation.

Many Palestinians were forced to apply for new ID cards because soldiers confiscated their old ones. To get a card, they must prove they are not wanted by police and have paid their taxes and utility bills.

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