Israelis tighten security as Muslim holy month begins
January 10, 1997
Web posted at: 3:05 p.m. EST (1505 GMT)
In this story:
(CNN) -- Thousands of Israeli troops patrolled near Jerusalem
mosques Friday at the start of the Muslim holy month of
Ramadan, a day after two bombs in Tel Aviv wounded 13 people.
Ramadan -- when devout Muslims flock to mosques and fast from
sunrise to sundown -- is traditionally a time of added
religious fervor, putting Israeli security forces on alert
for possible attacks.
In Jerusalem, tens of thousands of Palestinian worshipers
dispersed quietly after attending noon prayers at the Al Aqsa
Mosque compound in the walled Old City.
'We want a big attack'
This year, Ramadan's start roughly coincided with the
anniversary of the assassination of Yehiyah Ayyash, the chief
bombmaker of the Muslim militant group Hamas.
Ayyash was killed January 5, 1996, by a rigged mobile phone
in an operation widely attributed to Israel. Posters with
his picture were plainly visible in the mosque compound.
No organization has claimed responsibility for the two pipe
bombs that exploded Thursday in trash cans near the old bus
station in central Tel Aviv.
But Palestinian radicals were suspected, and police said on
Friday that forensic evidence pointed to a terrorist act.
But they would not rule out an attack by a criminal gang. Ten
people remained hospitalized Friday from the blasts.
Hamas, which carried out four suicide bombings that killed 63
people in February and March to avenge Ayyash, has threatened
more attacks to mark the anniversary.
About 15,000 Hamas supporters turned out Friday for an Ayyash
memorial rally in a sports stadium in the West Bank town of
Nablus, chanting: "We want a big attack!"
Hebron talks stalled
The latest Israeli-Palestinian tension reverberates strongly
from the distrust that dominates the current state of peace
The U.S.-brokered talks between Israel and the Palestinians
on a troop pullback from Hebron and a timetable for Israeli
withdrawal from West Bank rural areas remained deadlocked.
"I feel great sorrow," said Palestinian Authority Minister
But some 400 Jewish settlers living among about 100,000 Arabs
in Hebron welcomed the impasse. "We feel the negotiations
will only lead to further bloodshed," said David Wilder, a
spokesman for the settlers.
There were no incidents during Ramadan prayers Friday in
Hebron, where an off-duty Israeli soldier shot into a crowd
of Palestinians one week ago, wounding seven Arabs.
Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and
Reuters contributed to this report.
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