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Terror strikes Israel on mourning day


JERUSALEM -- On a day of national mourning for millions killed in the Holocaust a half-century ago, Israel felt the pain of a fresh shooting attack even before it had buried those killed in Wednesday's car bomb blast.

A Palestinian opened fire with an automatic weapon at a bus stop near the Israeli town of Ashdod yesterday morning, killing one person and wounding four others.

A statement from Hamas, an extremist Muslim group, vowed to "turn your Independence Day into hell" and promised four more violent attacks before the celebration of Israel's national holiday next Thursday.

"It was clear that there would be incidents of revenge following the incident in Hebron," said Army Chief of Staff Ehud Barak, referring to the massacre of 30 Muslims by a Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, in Hebron Feb. 25. "There is no possibility to fully prevent those events."

Israel imposed a total closure yesterday on 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and said the restrictions would be continued for at least a week.

As Israelis observed Holocaust Remembrance Day for Jews killed by the Nazi regime, six of the victims of Wednesday's car bomb blast in Afula were buried.

Tensions were high in the northern Israeli town where that attack occurred. Youths clashed with police, chanted praise to Goldstein for carrying out the Hebron shooting, and cursed Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. One government official, a deputy education minister, sought to give a eulogy and had to be rescued from a "hostile" crowd, according to Israeli television.

The car bomb, apparently packed with nails and propane gas, killed the suicide bomber and seven persons waiting at a bus stop. Responsibility for the blast was claimed by Hamas.

Police said the attack yesterday morning was carried out by an 18-year-old Gaza Strip member of the Islamic Jihad, a separate Muslim fundamentalist group.

He opened fire at a group of soldiers and civilians waiting to hitch rides along the main coastal road from Tel Aviv, according to police. He was shot dead by a soldier and a truck driver who opened fire.

"I saw a man standing and shooting at the soldiers who were at the hitchhiking ramp," said Moshe Nahman, the truck driver. "I took out my gun and cocked it while I ran in his direction. I think I shot four bullets.

"A soldier who was at the ramp took cover and shot him through the glass [of the bus shelter] from the back. He hit him badly. It appears that [the soldier] killed him," Mr. Nahman told Israeli radio. Police identified the slain Israeli as a civilian, Yishai Gedassi, 31. The Palestinian was identified as Ali Talib Abdallah Amawi.

It was not the only violence of the day. A Jewish settler in Hebron drove his car into a Palestinian walking on the sidewalk with his 5-year old son, seriously injuring the father, Ali al-Zaghal. Police said that the incident was an accident, but Palestinian witnesses said that the driver aimed for the pedestrians.

A Jewish settler in the Gaza Strip also was slightly wounded when stabbed by a Palestinian worker, according to police.

Israeli opponents of the peace talks being pressed by Mr. Rabin's government called for renewed demonstrations as a result of the violence. They demanded a halt in negotiations, scoring the failure of the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization to condemn the attacks.

"I think Israel must delay the negotiations and wait until Mr. Arafat will denounce clearly and unequivocally the terror," said Economics Minister Shimon Shitreet, a member of Mr. Rabin's Cabinet who joined the opposition's calls.

The PLO headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia, released a statement expressing regret for Wednesday's attack.

In Washington, President Clinton condemned the violence, and the United States was pressuring Mr. Arafat to add his personal statement.

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