Correction: A headline in yesterday’s edition of the Daily (Suicide bomber rocks market in central Jerusalem) incorrectly stated that the bombing took place in Jerusalem. The bombing took place in the city of Netanya
NETANYA, Israel (AP) – A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up among shoppers outside a mall yesterday, killing at least five people and putting pressure on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for a tough response ahead of a fierce election campaign.
Sharon held an emergency meeting of his security Cabinet to decide how to respond to the attack, which wounded 40 people, while Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas threatened his own strong action against those responsible.
An Israeli driver who spotted the bomber carrying a suspicious bag toward the mall alerted police. A mall security guard hustled him away from the entrance and pushed him against a wall, where the bomber detonated his explosives. The guard was among the five people killed, police said.
“If the bomber had gotten in, the result would have been much worse,” said Israel’s police chief, Moshe Karadi.
The bombing was the fifth since a truce took effect last February.
Islamic Jihad, a militant group that has carried out all five of the attacks, claimed responsibility for yesterday’s bombing, saying it was retaliation for Israeli killings of the group’s leaders.
Israel and the Palestinians are in the middle of election campaigns, and more violence could hurt both Sharon and Abbas, who say they support returning to the internationally backed “road map” peace plan.
The blast shattered windows and pocked the outside of the brown multistory building. Pieces of concrete were ripped off the facade, blood stained the walls and debris littered the sidewalk.
More than a half hour after the bombing, one body lay on the ground, its blackened legs sticking out from under a blanket, while another lay nearby under a sheet. Emergency workers rushed wheeled stretchers with the wounded toward ambulances.
The attack occurred before noon, when a man carrying a black bag crossed the street in front of the Sharon Mall in the seaside city of Netanya. An off-duty security guard waiting at a red light noticed the man and alerted police in the car behind him – in a scene caught on security cameras and broadcast on Israel’s Channel Two TV.
“Within a second, I knew he looked suspicious,” the driver, Nir Hudra, told The Associated Press.