Dimona bombing: Suicide attack in Israel first in a year
The attack raises concerns that militants can enter Israel from Egypt.
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The suicide bombing, the first in a year, rattles the tentative return to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking that was heralded in Annapolis, Md., last November, and which culminated in the visit to the region last month of President Bush, who has been pushing for a new Middle East peace deal by the end of his term.Skip to next paragraph
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Since Israel's well-guarded nuclear plant is more than six miles from the shopping center where the bombers struck, Israeli officials dismissed theories that this site was the true target. Dimona, mostly known as a hardscrabble desert town riddled with poverty, had never seen an incidence of terrorism. Most residents said that the quiet, off-the-radar feeling had abruptly come to an end.
Moshe Malka, a lawyer in the middle of a busy morning, heard the first explosion and ran downstairs. Amid the chaos and bloodshed, he saw an injured man lying on the ground and ran over to help him. Mr. Malka undid the man's jacket and saw that his middle was wrapped in an explosives belt.
In that moment, he said, he saw his life flash before his eyes.
"I yelled for everyone to go back. There was a wounded woman and so I picked her up to drag her away from the scene," he recalled, as he sits on a nearby park bench, shaking.
By then, police had already arrived. One of them, Koby Mor, said that as he got closer to the injured man wearing his explosives – apparently knocked down by his fellow bomber's explosion – Officer Mor shot in the direction of the man's head.
A rattled-looking man with bleary blue eyes said he had seen one of the bombers, sitting in a cafe and drinking a coffee, just before he got up, walked away, and pushed the button.
"He drank an espresso before he blew himself up," cried Arik Ben David, who said he was in the same cafe, and noticed a man in a wide coat, who then rose from his seat somewhat awkwardly.
"He paid 50 shekels [about $14 – too much for a coffee] and didn't wait for his change," Mr. Ben David continued. "I saw that he walked to a group of people and heard they were speaking Arabic, and he didn't blow himself up. He kept on going."
A few hours after the attack, Israeli aircraft struck a car in northern Gaza, killing a top military commander in the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC), a group made up of several Palestinian factions and which is active in launching Qassam rockets into Israel.
Elsewhere in Gaza, Palestinians celebrated the attack in Dimona and distributed candy.
After more than a week of Gazans entering Egypt more or less freely, Egyptian police resealed the border on Sunday. Israeli and Palestinian media sources reported that on Monday night, the border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip was reopened following a day of clashes between Egyptian troops and Palestinians stuck on the Egyptian side of the border.
Palestinian President Abbas condemned the Dimona bombing.
Olmert, speaking at the Knesset, said that Israel was facing a war in its south and would not waver in fighting it. "This war will continue. Terrorism will be hit. We will not relent," he said.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.