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2 dead, 7 wounded in Gaza explosions

Israel blames suicide bombers; PLO says Israel behind 1 blast

April 1, 1997
Web posted at: 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT)

In this story:

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel said suicide bombers aiming to kill Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers were behind twin explosions in Gaza on Tuesday, but Palestinians said Israeli troops caused one of the blasts.

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In separate incidents, Israeli forces on Tuesday shot dead two Arabs in the West Bank, where clashes over a Jewish settlement under construction in Arab East Jerusalem flared for a 13th straight day.

Netanyahu trip off

Also Tuesday, diplomatic sources told CNN that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided against visiting Washington next Monday.

Netanyahu had been invited to speak at an annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby, in Washington early next week.

The visit also would have given him an opportunity to meet with President Clinton, who was discussing Mideast peace options at the White House Tuesday with Jordan's King Hussein.

Suicide or not?

Both Gaza explosions occurred around 7 a.m., about the time Israeli children leave two Jewish settlements on buses for school, Jewish settlers said.

Palestinians conceded that a man with 11 pounds (5 kg) of explosives on his back blew himself up on the side of a road about 1.5 miles (2 km) from the Jewish settlement of Netzarim south of Gaza City.

But Palestinians insisted the other man -- who was wearing a Palestinian police uniform -- was killed by a bomb or grenade thrown by Israel troops at a passing taxi and donkey cart outside the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom. Seven taxi passengers were wounded in the explosion.

No Israelis were hurt in the incidents.

After the Netzarim blast, Jewish settlers hurled rocks at passing Arab motorists, witnesses said.

Bombings come amid stalled peace talks

The bombings came against a backdrop of stalled Israeli-PLO peace talks and Israeli charges that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat has failed to curb militants in areas of the West Bank and Gaza under his control.

Unless Palestinians "clamp down on terrorism, the peace process is in grave danger," warned David Bar-Illan, an adviser to Netanyahu.
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Arafat dismissed the accusations and said Israel's prolonged security closure of the Palestinian areas created the climate for the militants.

An Arafat aide said: "In Kfar Darom area, an Israeli military jeep hurled a grenade or a bomb at (Palestinian) passersby killing one and wounding others."

Israel, Hamas deny responsibility

Arafat

"This is information that we have collected from passersby and victims," said Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, secretary-general of the Palestinian cabinet.

Arafat himself told reporters in Gaza that he believes Israeli troops caused one of the explosions by throwing a grenade at a taxi carrying Palestinians.

An Israeli army spokesman rejected the Palestinian account.

"It is absolutely incorrect. There were two suicide attacks and two bombs," the spokesman said.

The Islamist militant group Hamas denied it was behind the explosions, accusing Israel of ordering the blasts to sour relations between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers, Correspondent Steve Hurst and Reuters contributed to this report.

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