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Suicide bombing, prisoner releases threaten
to derail cease-fire.
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Jewish Telegraphici Agency
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i E s
suicide bombing and the
issue of prisoner releases are
threatening the tenuous
A local branch of Islamic Jihad
claimed responsibility for a suicide
bombing Monday night in central Israel
that killed a 65-year-old woman.
The attack followed a dispute over
whether Palestinian prisoners belonging
to Hamas and Islamic Jihad would be
The Israeli government approved cri-
teria for releasing Palestinian prisoners,
but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said no
Palestinian prisoners who have murdered
Israelis would be released, reports said.
Palestinian groups called the measure
insufficient and said the week-old cease-
fire they declared could be in jeopardy
unless all Palestinian prisoners are
released. Israel is not obligated to release
prisoners under the road map peace
After the latest attack, the Islamic
Jihad branch identified the bomber as a
resident of a Jenin-area village and said
attacks would continue as long as Israel
failed to release all Palestinian prisoners.
But senior members of the organization
in the Gaza Strip said they were check-
ing the claim and still stood by a three-
month truce to suspend attacks, reports
Mazal Afari was killed when a suicide
bomber blew himself up in Afari's home
in Moshav Kfar Yavetz.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said
talks with the Palestinians would contin-
ue despite the attack, which also wound-
ed three of Afari's grandchildren.
But a spokesman for the prime minis-
ter said the bombing proves the
Palestinian cease-fire is worthless.
Ra'anan Gissin told Reuters that the
attack underscores the need for the
Palestinian Authority to crack down on
terrorist groups' infrastructure.
Even before the attack, the prisoner
release issue underscored the differences
between the two sides.
At the Cabinet meeting, the measure
passed on its third vote by a 13-8 count.
The ministers agreed to the resolution
after it was amended to include the cre-
ation of a ministerial committee on pris-
oner releases and after a clause was
added stressing that the release is
dependent on Palestinian steps to meet
their commitments to fight terrorism.
During the Cabinet meeting, families
of terror victims demonstrated outside
the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem
against the releases.
The government decision is expected
to pave the way for the release of some
400 Palestinian prisoners — about 250
administrative detainees and 135
Palestinians held for criminal offenses,
Israel is believed to hold about 4,500
Palestinians in detention, the reports said.
The Palestinian Authority's informa-
tion minister, Nabil Amr, said
Palestinians had expected a larger release.
"This is an insufficient step," he said,
adding that the United States would be
called on to pressure Israel to free all
Hamas and Islamic Jihad went further.
Hamas demanded that Israel release all
its members, while Islamic Jihad said the
decision led the group to question its
Israel's justice minister rejected a
request for a broader release. After a
meeting Monday with Palestinian
Authority ministers, Yosef "Tommy"
Lapid said a general release was impossi-
ble because Hamas has said it will return
to violence when the three-month cease-
At the meeting between Defense
Minister Shaul Mofaz and the
Palestinian security chief, Mohammed
Dahlan, the Palestinians reportedly
demanded that the Israeli military re-
deploy from three more Palestinian cities,
including Ramallah, and lift the blockade
that still remains in effect around
Bethlehem, the report said.
Mofaz, an outspoken critic of the road
map, said there have been fewer terror
alerts since Israel handed over security
responsibility to the Palestinians in the
West Bank town of Bethlehem and parts
of the Gaza Strip.
He also said after the talks that he
came away with the impression that the
Palestinians want to renew the peace
process, Israel Radio reported.
But Mofaz said Palestinian leaders
would be judged on their actions, not