Three Israelis were killed and at least five were wounded Sunday in a firebomb attack on a passenger bus in the West Bank town of Jericho, according to late reports here and abroad.
By midnight local time, military authorities had not released information about the identities of the victims.
But according to news reports in London, the dead included two babies and a mother. The wounded were flown by helicopter to hospitals in the Jerusalem area.
Five Molotov cocktails were thrown at the bus, which was completely gutted. The bus, which was en route from Tiberias to Jerusalem, was only half full at the time of the firebombing.
The attack appears to be the worst on Israeli civilians in the administered territories since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising there more than 10 months ago.
Earlier Sunday, a Palestinian youth was killed by Israeli security forces during violent disturbances in the Arab-Christian village of Beit Sahur, near Bethlehem.
At least 10 other Palestinians were wounded in clashes elsewhere in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as tension gripped the territories in advance of the Israeli elections Tuesday.
Thirty-one Arab activists were arrested in the West Bank over the weekend, 11 of them journalists.
SECURITY PRECAUTIONS TAKEN
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told the Cabinet on Sunday that “very serious preparations” were being made to ensure quiet when Israeli settlers in the territories go to the polls.
The fatally wounded youth in Beit Sahur was identified as Ayyad Abu-Saade, 20, a resident of the village.
According to Israel Defense Force sources, soldiers came under a barrage of rocks after Sunday morning church services and were forced to open fire. Beit Sahur was placed under curfew.
The IDF said six other people were wounded in the Gaza Strip and five more in the West Bank. Arab sources put the number of wounded in Gaza at 12.
Meanwhile, tough security measures are being taken not only to make sure no trouble erupts on Election Day, but to keep the territories as calm as possible next month.
November contains several dates that are symbolic and highly provocative to Palestinians. One is Nov. 2, directly after the elections, which will be the 71st anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
Nov. 29 will be the 41st anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly’s vote to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.
Coming in between is the expected convening of the Palestine National Council, which is scheduled to meet Nov. 12 in Algiers. The body is expected to declare an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
(JTA correspondent Gil Sedan in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.