Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat contacted Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the eve of Israeli Independence Day to express his sorrow over the bombing attack on a bus in Hadera on Wednesday morning.
The PLO leader told Rabin that he had immediately condemned the attack, in which five Israelis were killed, during a meeting of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, where he had first learned of the incident.
Arafat reminded Rabin that the PLO had promptly condemned a suicide car bombing in the northern Israeli town of Afula a week earlier.
The PLO had issued a written statement criticizing the Afula attack, in which seven Israelis were killed, but Arafat himself was sharply rebuked by Israeli and American officials for not speaking out personally about the bombing.
The Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement, which is opposed to the PLO and the peace process, has claimed responsibility for both the Hadera and Afula attacks.
Prior to his week’s incident in Hadera, Arafat wrote to President Clinton to protest the widespread criticism of his refusal to condemn the Afula attack.
In his letter to Clinton, he wrote that he “regretted and strongly rejected” terrorist actions against Israelis.
Such attacks, he wrote, are “directed against innocent people and claim to strike against the peace process and destroy it.”
At a briefing Wednesday, State Department spokesman Mike McCurry was noncommittal with respect to whether the administration was satisfied with Arafat’s reaction to the killings.
In Jordan, by contrast, Islamic militants were reportedly furious with Arafat for his condemnation this week of the Hadera bombing.
In the Jordanian capital of Amman, Hamas said on Thursday that the bombings in Afula and Hadera were but two of five attacks that it has vowed to carry out to avenge the Feb. 25 massacre in Hebron.
In that incident, an Israeli settler, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, opened fire on Palestinian worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, killing 29 people.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the Hadera attack, like the one in Afula, was a suicide mission and that the perpetrator, a resident of a West Bank village, had strapped an explosive device to his body before pushing his way onto the bus through the back door and detonating the bomb.