Injured teen dies after suicide bombing

Jerusalem - A suicide bomber blew up a restaurant in a city north of Tel Aviv, killing an Israeli teenager, as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was winding up a trip to Washington, where he insisted that Palestinians must stop violence before peace talks begin.

Sharon was to leave Washington on Wednesday after talks with US President George W Bush and Congressional leaders. Bush pleased Israelis and angered Palestinians by criticising Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian government.

Violent incidents spread through the day on Tuesday, claiming the lives of six Palestinians and one Israeli, with 12 other Israelis wounded.

The bomber blew himself up in a small restaurant in downtown Herzliya, an upscale city north of Tel Aviv. A 15-year old girl died of her wounds a few hours after the blast, and eight other bystanders were hurt.

Blood was splattered on the front of a food counter after the restaurant's glass doors shattered, spraying broken glass in all directions.

Hours later, half-eaten falafel sandwiches in pita bread still lay on the ground where victims dropped them.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The Palestinian leadership issued a statement denouncing the attack and saying, "it gives Israel a reason to attack the Palestinian people".

David Baker, an official in Sharon's office, condemned the bombing as "another example of the Palestinians' intention to commit murder for the sake of murder".

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a nine-year-old Palestinian boy near a Jewish settlement, doctors said. The Israeli military said soldiers were returning Palestinian fire.

In other incidents, two Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip. One was shot dead by Israeli soldiers after he opened fire on a civilian vehicle, the military said. The army said it found the body of a Palestinian near the fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel who had been killed when a bomb he tried to plant exploded.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinians killed two fellow Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. The body of one was dragged to the place where a local guerrilla leader was killed in an Israeli helicopter strike in April.

The skeleton of the car still lay at the spot of the attack, a grisly memorial to the leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, blamed by Israel for directing and carrying out many attacks. The group claimed responsibility for killing the suspected collaborators, the latest of at least 42 to be killed by Palestinians during more than 20 months of Palestinian-Israeli fighting.

Israeli officials expressed satisfaction with Sharon's visit to Washington, where he met with lawmakers on Tuesday. Bush said after meeting Sharon that "no one has confidence" in Arafat's leadership and conditions were not right for a peace conference.

Informed of the Herzliya attack during a meeting with Congressional leaders, Sharon said, "the Palestinian Authority has not done anything to try to stop this kind of thing," insisting on an end to violence before peace talks.

Palestinian Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abdel Rahman reacted angrily to the results of Sharon's meeting with Bush. It was Sharon's sixth meeting with Bush; Arafat has yet to be invited to the White House.

"I am disappointed," Abdel Rahman said. "I think that President Bush was unfair... What is happening daily here is that we are under attack and we are under siege."

Israeli tanks surrounded Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah for a second day but did not enter. Arafat himself was not harmed.

Soldiers in Ramallah arrested about 30 Palestinians on Tuesday, including Abdel Rahim Maluh, second in command of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the radical PLO group that claimed responsibility for the assassination of an Israeli Cabinet minister in October.

The Palestinian statement condemning the Herzliya bombing also condoned attacks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, saying the "leadership affirms the Palestinian people's right to defend their land and resist the Israeli occupation". The Palestinians claim the territories for a state.

The bombing followed another at an orchard next to a West Bank Jewish settlement in which three Israeli teen-agers were injured.

Also Tuesday, a Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli police officer at one of the entrances to the Old City of Jerusalem. - Sapa-AP


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