Israel shuts down West Bank

Aug. 5, 2002 at 5:14 AM

TEL AVIV, Israel, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The Israeli army announced Monday it will tighten its blockade of five Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank.

Movement will be completely restricted in Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Qalqilya and Ramallah, with the exception of medical and humanitarian cases, the army said in a statement. The southern West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Hebron and Jericho were not affected by the ban.

The army also continued its search Monday for the gunmen who killed two people early on Monday as they were driving on a road near Ramallah, Israel Radio reported.

The attack, which was fifth in less than 24 hours, killed a husband and his pregnant wife. Security officials told the Ha'aretz newspaper that the gunmen, who ambushed the vehicle, managed to escape the scene of the attack.

The fatalities brought to 18 the number of people killed in terror attacks Sunday and early Monday.

The Palestinian organization called "the Martyrs of the Palestinian Popular Army," affiliated with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Sunday, 16 people eleven people were killed and more than 80 were wounded in four separate attacks.

In the worst single incident on Sunday, at least nine people were killed and 45 others injured in a suicide bomb attack which destroyed a bus in northern Israel.

Many of the passengers on the bus were at Safad were soldiers returning to their bases after the weekend.

The militant Hamas movement claimed responsibility.

"Today's attack is the second chapter of the movements' retaliation on the assassination Salah Shehada, the founder and the leader of Izel Dein Al Qassam, the armed wing of Hamas in Gaza," a leaflet distributed by the movement in Gaza said.

Mahmoud Al Zahhar, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the attack was "in revenge for the crimes that the Zionists are carrying out on daily bases against our people."

The bus, on route 361, left Haifa at 7:15 a.m. local time and picked up passengers in many places along the way. Egged Bus Co. spokesman Doron Ratner said the Haifa terminal was well protected but noted the bus stopped to pick up passengers near several Arab villages along the way.

The blast ripped the roof and the side of the bus near Meiron, a few minutes' drive along a winding, narrow road to Safad. Some of the people who were waiting at the station were also wounded.

In a separate incident two Palestinians were killed after exchanging fire with Israeli soldiers in the village of Burka near Nablus. Three other suspected militants were arrested in an Israel Defense Forces operation.

Palestinian sources identified the two killed as Haled Saef and Mohammed Farouhnia.

Meanwhile, three Israeli soldiers were seriously wounded overnight when a bomb exploded near their jeep in the West Bank, Israel Radio reports. Another soldier was slightly wounded in the attack.

Authorities said the soldiers were taken to a hospital in Jerusalem.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for that attack.

An armed Palestinian was shot dead as he tried top break into a Jewish settlement on the coast of the Gaza Strip, the army said.

And a Jewish settler was ambushed and wounded near the West Bank town of Tulkarm, along with two soldiers who tried to rescue him.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade said it carried out the attack.

Also on Sunday, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on an Israeli near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City.

Police say one Israeli was killed, but the gunman and an Arab bystander also died.

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