Israel suffers new wave of terror

JERUSALEM, May 23 (JTA) — Israeli officials are considering whether to launch another broad military campaign following the latest Palestinian terror attacks. For now, the Israel Defense Force has been limiting its operation to quick incursions into Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank to search for suspected terrorists. In addition, the IDF also appeared to be returning to the tactic of targeted assassinations. In the latest use of this tactic, Israeli soldiers operating near Nablus on Wednesday killed the regional leader of the Al-Aksa Brigades, the military arm of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement. Faced with a return to the pattern of attacks and retaliation that preceded Operation Protective Wall, Israel’s recent anti-terror campaign in the West Bank, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer warned Thursday that Israel is about to face “waves” of male and female suicide bombers. “To my sorrow,” he added, the Palestinian terrorists are “backed by a political leadership that has adopted terror as a political tool.” Israel was the target of several terror attacks this week. On Thursday, a major disaster was averted when a bomb exploded at the country’s largest gas and fuel depot, located near Tel Aviv. Police later said the explosion at the Pi Glilot depot in Herzliya was the work of terrorists. In the incident, a bomb exploded beneath a tanker truck that was being filled up at the depot. No one was hurt, and workers doused a small fire that erupted. Police said traces of explosives were found on the underside of the tanker. Remains of a cell phone were also found, raising suspicions it was used to remotely detonate the charge. Police officials said it is miraculous that no one was hurt. One witness said that the fact the tanker was being filled with kerosene instead of a more flammable fuel contributed to avoiding a massive explosion. Pi Glilot is located in a populated area and is the largest fuel and gas depot in Israel. In the wake of the incident, the Infrastructure Ministry convened urgent discussions on moving the refinery. Some ministry officials have accused the government of dragging its feet in resolving the issue, which has been a matter of debate for some time. The explosion recalled warnings security officials have issued that terrorist groups were planning attacks of unprecedented proportions against Israel. Earlier this week, military officials revealed that terrorists had planned to detonate a ton of explosives beneath Israel’s tallest building, the Azrieli towers in Tel Aviv. Along with the attack at the fuel depot, there were several deadly suicide bombings this week. On Wednesday, two Israelis were killed and more than 40 others wounded in a suicide bombing in Rishon le-Zion. The Al-Aksa Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. Police said because the terrorist had dyed-blond hair he had not aroused suspicions before he blew himself up in a downtown pedestrian mall. This was the second bombing in Rishon le-Zion in recent weeks. Fifteen Israelis were killed and more than 60 wounded in a suicide bombing at a pool hall on May 7. On Sunday, a suicide bombing in the coastal city of Netanya killed three people and wounded at least 58 others. On Monday, a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a traffic junction in northern Israel, killing only himself. Meanwhile, Israeli security forces are continuing to foil would-be suicide bombers. On Thursday, a Palestinian suspected of smuggling explosives was arrested near the Erez industrial zone in the Gaza Strip. Israeli security forces also discovered an arms cache that included two explosives belts. Israel has not ruled out a military offensive in Gaza if the terrorist infrastructure there launches large-scale attacks. After the May 7 attack in Rishon le-Zion, Israeli forces readied for a large-scale operation in Gaza. The offensive was called off amid strong international pressure and out of concern the operation would result in heavy casualties. Israelis, meanwhile, are bracing for more attacks. Ha’aretz commentator Ze’evi Schiff wrote Thursday that the latest series of suicide attacks indicate that recent Saudi and Egyptian pressure on Arafat and on Hamas to cease the attacks have not had any impact.

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