Video: Bombing kills 1 in Israel

updated 7/11/2004 11:40:36 PM ET 2004-07-12T03:40:36

A defiant Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Sunday that Israel will keep building its West Bank separation barrier, despite a world court ruling that the system of fences, trenches and walls is illegal and must be torn down.

In Tel Aviv, Palestinian militants blew up a bus stop with a nail-studded bomb hidden in roadside shrubs, killing a female soldier and seriously wounding five people.

It was the first deadly attack in Israel in four months, and Sharon linked it to the ruling against the barrier, which Israel says is needed to stop such attacks.

“The decision sends a destructive message to encourage terrorism, and denounces countries that are defending themselves against it,” Sharon said. He promised an all-out diplomatic offensive against the ruling.

The Palestinians also began preparations for what they said would be a long diplomatic battle. Although the court decision was nonbinding, the Palestinians hope to push the United Nations to enforce the ruling.

'Suddenly a large boom'
In Sunday’s attack, a five-pound bomb filled with sharp pieces of metal exploded early Sunday as a bus pulled up at a stop near Tel Aviv’s central bus station.

Bus driver Eyal Gazit said he initially thought the bomb was on his bus.

“Suddenly a large boom, a cloud of black and all the bus was covered ... the windows blew out,” he told Israel’s Army Radio. “There were screams ... the passengers were jumping over each other trying to escape from the bus.”

A 19-year-old female soldier was killed, and 32 people were hurt. Most were treated for shock or light wounds.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a violent Palestinian group linked to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction, claimed responsibility, saying it was avenging the deaths of members killed by Israel.

A spokesman for the group, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the bombing proved Palestinians can carry out attacks even with the barrier.

Palestinian officials condemned the attack. “We are against all bombings like this,” Arafat said.

A contentious barrier
Israel began building the barrier two years ago, saying it is needed to keep out Palestinian attackers who have killed nearly 1,000 Israelis in four years of fighting. More than 3,000 Palestinians were killed in the same period, most by army fire.

Israel has completed one-quarter of the planned 425-mile project, and says the barrier is a key reason for the recent lull in Palestinian attacks.

But the barrier stretches deep into the West Bank and has disrupted the lives of thousands of Palestinians.

The Palestinians turned to the world court, arguing that the barrier amounts to an illegal land grab. The Palestinians want an independent state in all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Sharon met Sunday with senior Cabinet ministers, security officials and the attorney general to discuss the fallout from the world court decision.

He ordered construction to continue, in line with a recent Israeli Supreme Court decision, his office said.

The Israeli court last month ordered Israel to change the route of the barrier near Jerusalem, saying it was causing too much hardship on the Palestinians.

But it upheld Israel’s claim that the barrier is a security measure, not an attempt to redraw its borders, and allowed construction to continue.

Based on the decision, Israel has already begun plans to change other parts of the route.

On Sunday, the Supreme Court extended a freeze on another stretch of barrier near the Israeli town of Rosh Haayin. The Association of Civil Rights in Israel, which filed the challenge, said the freeze would remain in effect for several weeks until a final decision on rerouting the barrier is made.

Both sides look for support
Israeli officials said they have turned to the United States and other nations to fend off Palestinian efforts at the United Nations.

Washington often has used its veto in the Security Council to block resolutions critical of Israel. U.S. officials have said they disagree with the world court, and they believe no further U.N. action is necessary.

Palestinian leaders met Sunday in the West Bank city of Ramallah to plan their diplomatic strategy. The leaders indicated they are in no rush to seek a binding Security Council resolution on the barrier because of an expected U.S. veto.

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