* At least 16 dead, 100 hurt this evening in Passover massacre in Netanya
* Another suicide bomber caught in a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance
HAMAS: "IT IS A JIHAD, VICTORY OR MARTYRDOM"
Hamas, who have taken responsibility for tonight's terror attack on a Passover seder, have identified the bomber as Abdel-Basset Odeh, from the West Bank city of Tulkarem, which is just 10 kilometers (six miles) east of Netanya. "It is a jihad, victory or martyrdom," Hamas said in its statement, broadcast over Al Jazeera TV in Qatar a short while ago.
Odeh had been on Israel's wanted list for four years. Israel had repeatedly asked the Palestinian Authority to arrest Odeh, but Yasser Arafat refused to do so, despite several agreements Arafat has signed and promises he has made to the European Union and the U.S. to act against Palestinian terrorists.
At least 16 dead, 100 hurt in suicide bombing in Netanya hotel
By Jalal Bana, Haim Shadmi and Mazal Mualem, Ha'aretz Correspondents, and news agencies – combined story
March 27, 2002
At least 16 people were killed and over 100 were wounded, 24 seriously, when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in the Park Hotel in the coastal town of Netanya at around 7:30 P.M. Wednesday.
The terrorist walked into the dining room of the hotel, in the center of the city, where a large number of people were participating in the Passover service, and detonated an explosive device. The suicide bombing devastated the dining room of the luxury Park Hotel in the coastal city of Netanya, blowing debris onto the street, leaving wires and pieces of ceiling hanging and chunks of concrete and metal bars lying near broken chairs and tables.
Bodies were lined up in body bags outside the hotel.
Rescue workers clambered through the wreckage and removed dazed survivors on stretchers. Guests had been celebrating a feast at the start of the Passover commemorating the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
The bomber entered the hotel through its main door, at the time when the armed guard was carrying out a security check of the hotel grounds, Israel Radio reported. He was carrying a large bag, the radio said, which apparently contained the explosive device.
The Qatar-based Al Jazeera television station reported that Hamas took responsibility for the attack. The group identified the bomber as Abdel-Basset Odeh, a member of its military wing, the Iz a Din al-Kassam Brigades, from the West Bank city of Tul Karm, which is just 10 kilometers (six miles) east of Netanya. "It is a jihad, victory or martyrdom," Hamas said in the statement.
Odeh used to work in hotels in Netanya and other Israeli towns, Palestinian security sources said. They added that Odeh had been on Israel's wanted list for four years, and said they had received several warnings in the past from Israel that he was planning to carry out attacks. Israel had repeatedly asked the Palestinian Authority to arrest Odeh.
The wounded were taken to Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava and Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center in Hadera. A total of 62 people were taken to Laniado Hospital, 15 in serious condition among them a 45-year-old man and a 5-year-old boy, both with head injuries, who were later moved from Laniado to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. Another 33 of the injured were taken to Meir Hospital, two of them in serious condition.
Security forces launched an investigation into how the bomber had succeeded in entering the city despite the increased security over the Pesach holiday.
Eyewitness Pinchas Butlono, a member of the hotel staff, said that he was in the hotel elevator when he heard the blast and went to help the injured. He said that there were some 250 people at the hotel's Pesach service, which began at 7 P.M.
Police have detained three Arab workers, who were employed by the hotel a few weeks ago, and are investigating any connection between them and the attack.
Israel Police Commissioner, Shlomo Aharonishki, said it was impossible to prevent all attacks. "Even with more policemen and a broader deployment, we cannot block the centers of the cities," Aharonishki said. "This attack is more evidence of that."
Netanya Mayor Miriam Feyerberg also said that preventing such attacks was impossible. "This is a city that can be infiltrated from many different directions. It's simply unbelievable," she said.
On March 9, two Palestinians opened fire on a nearby hotel, killing two people, including a baby girl, and wounding dozens of others.
Suicide bomber found in Palestinian ambulance
News Agency reports
March 27, 2002
Reserve soldiers stationed south of Ramallah this morning stopped a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance and, upon inspection, found a suspected suicide bomber on board carrying a large explosive device.
The Palestinian man was reportedly wanted by the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, for suspected participation in terror-related activities.
The explosives belt, weighing 10 kilos, was hidden in the back of the ambulance underneath a stretcher, which was carrying a sick Palestinian boy. Members of the boy's family were also traveling in the ambulance.
The security establishment has justified in the past the prevention of Palestinian ambulances evacuating casualties from area of combat, saying that the ambulances were used to smuggle terrorists and weapons. This is the first time clear proof of this claim has been found.