Suicide Bomber Misses Target, but Blows Up Himself and Mule

A terror disaster was narrowly avoided in the Gaza Strip on Sunday when a suicide bomber blew himself up just after an army vehicle had passed him.

The three soldiers on the vehicle were slightly injured.

The incident occurred near the entrance to Neve Dekalim, one of the Jewish settlements that comprise the Gush Katif region in the southern part of the strip.

The bomber was driving a mule-cart. Both he and the mule were blown to pieces.

Security sources immediately linked the bombing to a warning issued by Islamic Jihad in the wake of the fatal shooting of one of its ranking commanders last week.

Mahmoud al-Khawaja, 35, was gunned down by masked men using revolvers with silencers as he left his home in the Shati refugee camp on June 22.

Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the two Islamic fundamentalist opposition groups active in the Gaza Strip, issued leaflets accusing Israel’s secret service, the Mossad, of perpetrating the killing.

Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the two Islamic fundamentalist opposition groups active in the Gaza Strip, issued leaflets accusing Israel’s secret service, the Mossad, of perpetrating the killing.

Islamic Jihad threatened to avenge the killing with “the coffins of Israeli soldiers.”

Israeli sources, flatly denying the charge, said the dead man was not on Israel’s list of wanted criminals. Although he was a known activist and had been incarcerated briefly in the past, al-Khawaja was not known to have participated personally in fatal attacks on Israeli soldiers or civilians, these sources said.

They speculated that inter-Palestinian feuding lay behind his murder.

Security forces were on high alert after the Islamic Jihad threat.

Israeli officials have expressed concern that after more than four months of relative quiet on the terror front, a mass attack against Israelis could seriously compromise the government’s hopes to reach its second-phase agreement with the Palestinian Authority over the holding of Palestinian elections in the fall and the Israel Defense Force redeployment in the West Bank.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, addressing his Labor Party Knesset faction recently, warned that despite recent progress on the Israel-Palestinian track, one major terror disaster could derail the entire process.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the bombing attempt near Neve Dekalim, settlement leaders and IDF commanders resolved that no vehicles would be allowed on the roads used jointly by Palestinians and Israelis in the Gush Katif area without first passing through meticulous security checkpoints.

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