Suicide bombers die in failed Middle East attacks

NETZARIM, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinians and two others blew themselves up in bungled suicide bombings Tuesday, one of the deadliest days yet in a growing crisis in Middle East peacemaking.
The bombers apparently had meant to destroy Israeli school buses outside Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, Israelis said. The attacks come during a deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which broke down last month over new Israeli construction in disputed east Jerusalem, and triggered new accusations from both sides.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that the suicide bombings showed that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has sanctioned attacks by Islamic militants.
“Today’s twin attacks (are) proof that the terror campaign continues,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu later decided to make a 12-hour visit Monday to the United States to talk with President Clinton on the crisis, the prime minister’s spokesman said.
Netanyahu also will address the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC and Christian organizations that support Israel, and will meet with U.S. Jewish leaders, spokesman Shai Bazak said in a statement.
Israel’s Channel 2 television said Clinton intended to propose a compromise to Netanyahu.
Arafat said it was Israel’s prolonged security closure of Palestinian areas that created a climate of violence. “We are all doing our best … to control the situation,” Arafat said.
Both sides refuse to resume peace talks unless the other makes key compromises.
The Palestinians demand that Israel stop construction of a Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem, the sector they claim as a future capital. Until the work stops, Palestinians say they will refuse to help Israel on security, such as detecting Islamic militants plotting attacks on Israelis.
Netanyahu insists that Arafat restore order and peace before negotiations resume. He refuses to halt the construction.
In Washington, President Clinton discussed the growing crisis with King Hussein of Jordan, who recently and dramatically blamed Netanyahu for the breakdown in relations. Clinton declared Middle East leaders should show “zero tolerance” for terrorism.
Clinton said he would send Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to the region once he decides on a strategy to end the negotiating impasse.
Tuesday’s first explosion went off about a mile from the Jewish settlement of Netzarim, south of Gaza City. A Netzarim school bus was running late, which meant it was away from the site when the bomb exploded.
Palestinian police disputed Israeli allegations that the other explosion, at Kfar Darom, was a suicide bombing. They said Israeli troops threw explosives at a taxi and a donkey cart, killing a Palestinian bystander and wounding seven taxi passengers.
But Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak, said Islamic militants set off both blasts. He said the suicide bombers wore Palestinian police uniforms and were Islamic militants belonging to either the Hamas or Islamic Jihad groups.
Israel TV said the explosive kits were similar to one used by a Hamas-affiliated suicide bomber who killed three Israeli women in a Tel Aviv cafe on March 21.
A caller to Israel Radio claimed responsibility in the name of Hamas, but Hamas political leaders and the Izzedine al-Qassem military wing of the group denied involvement.
Two other callers to Israel TV and Israel Radio’s Arabic service claimed the attacks on behalf of other, previously unknown groups.