Israeli jets strike West Bank, Gaza after suicide bombing
NETANYA, Israel -- Israel used fighter jets to hit Palestinian police posts Friday as a day of terror and reprisals killed at least 16 people.
The Israeli raids on the West Bank and Gaza came after six people died in a suicide bombing at a shopping mall in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya on Friday. At least nine people were reported killed in the Israeli raids.
Israel also blamed Palestinian gunmen for the killing of a Jewish settler near Ramallah in a separate incident.
Israeli officials confirmed witnesses' accounts that U.S.-built F-16 fighters fired missiles at a Palestinian Authority police station in Nablus and offices of Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat's elite Force 17 in Ramallah. At least eight were killed in Nablus, and a Force 17 member was reported killed in Ramallah.
In Gaza, Israeli jets hit the offices of Force 17 and the Palestinian Authority's coastal patrol force. Another raid hit the West Bank town of Tulkarem, the hometown of the Palestinian militant who carried out the bombing in Netanya.
No deaths or injuries were immediately reported from the strikes in Gaza and Tulkarem.
The raids marked the first time that Israel has used fighter aircraft against Palestinian targets in the 7-month-old conflict, though previous raids have employed helicopter gunships.
The West Bank strikes came about six hours after a Palestinian man blew himself up outside a crowded mall in Netanya. The explosion killed five others and wounded more than 100, six seriously.
Police said the suicide bomber drew the attention of security guards outside the shopping center by wearing a heavy coat on a warm day. The guards prevented him from entering the crowded mall, so the bomber detonated his explosives outside, police said.
Police first reported that there were seven victims of the suicide bomber.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, identifying the bomber as a 20-year-old carpenter from the West Bank. Hamas spokesman Mahmoud al-Zahaar said that as Israel continues what he called the occupation of Palestinian lands, "no one in Israel, no one in Palestine will be safe."
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened his security Cabinet in response to the attack, and government spokesman Avi Pazner focused the blame on the Palestinian Authority and leader Arafat.
"This is a terrible, murderous attack, the result of the propaganda incitement of the Palestinian Authority, of the policy of Arafat who liberated the Hamas terrorists," Pazner said.
In Washington, President George W. Bush said continued violence will only make it harder to reach a peace agreement.
"It is essential that the leaders in the Middle East speak out clearly against violence. We must break the cycle of violence in order to begin meaningful discussions about any kind of political settlement," Bush said.
The Palestinian Authority has condemned the killing of civilians, but Palestinian senior negotiator Saeb Erakat said Israeli strikes and restrictions on the Palestinian economy are fueling more attacks.
"They must look in the mirror to see the acts, the closures and the siege and the guns, helicopters, force and arrogance of power will not produce any results other than enlarging the violence and the counter-violence," Erakat said.
Israel has warned that it considers Palestinian Authority security forces fair game for retaliatory strikes. The government considers the Palestinian Authority complicit in the bombing campaign against Israeli civilians, blaming it for releasing Palestinian militants from its jails and for directly aiding some strikes against civilians.
Netanya, about six miles from the West Bank, has been the scene of several attacks by Palestinian militants, including two previous bombings this year.
In March, another suicide bombing killed four people, including the bomber, and a January attack injured at least 40.
CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna and Correspondent Sheila MacVicar contributed to this report
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