A Palestinian carrying explosives blew himself up during rush hour Sunday morning in Beersheba, the first act of suicide terrorism since Israel pulled its settlers out of the Gaza Strip last week.
Hours later, the Israeli Cabinet voted overwhelmingly to allow Egypt to patrol its border with Gaza with 750 armed men, permitting Israel to withdraw the last of its soldiers from Gaza in the next month, New York Times informs.
In a statement issued by the official Palestinian news agency, WAFA, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the bombing in Beersheba, 55 miles south of Tel Aviv, as "a terrorist attack." Two security guards were critically wounded and another 46 people were hurt.
The bomber asked a bus driver for directions in a dirt parking lot 100 yards from the Beersheba bus station. The driver, suspicious, directed him to another bus and called security guards, who chased the man and asked him for documents. The man then detonated his explosives, but he was not in a crowded area.
The militant groups Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, identifying the bomber as Ayman Zaaqiq, 25, of a village near Hebron. But Shin Bet, Israel's counterterrorism agency, said Zaaqiq was in custody, so the identity of the bomber remained unclear.
Palestinians' expectations for what will soon happen in Gaza are soaring. Rumors circulating among their journalists over the past weekend speculated that the Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, who is arriving in Gaza today, would look into, among other things, the possibility of President Hosni Mubarak visiting the Gaza Strip on the occasion of the declaration of Palestinian independence there. There were even some who said that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas spoke last week in Cairo with Mubarak about the possibility of convening an Arab summit in Gaza. Official spokesmen, however, denied this, but rumors of this sort are indicative of the mood on the Palestinian street prior to the completion of Israel's withdrawal from the Strip, Ha’aretz reports.
Several years ago, a prominent Indonesian businessman who now resides in Canada, insisted on meeting me in a back room of one of Jakarta's posh restaurants. An avid reader of mine, he 'had something urgent to tell me', after finding out that our paths were going to be crossing in this destroyed and hopelessly polluted Indonesian capital.