Despite car bomb in Jerusalem, Israelis and Palestinians, continue truce talks
JERUSALEM (AP) – A car bomb exploded in a Jerusalem neighborhood on Monday, causing only minor injuries but leaving another crack in the latest Mideast cease-fire.
The truce has been marred by daily violence since it was formally declared last week, but Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and senior Palestinian officials Ahmed Qureia and Saeb Erekat met Monday in an attempt to keep it from unraveling. Both sides have blamed the other for the continuing unrest.
As part of the cease-fire agreement, the Israeli army pulled back tanks and eased military checkpoints around several West Bank towns, the military and Palestinians said.
The car bomb went off in a small parking lot in a residential neighborhood in southern Jerusalem around 9:15 a.m. Three bystanders were slightly hurt by glass shards, police said. The parking lot was across the road from a school, which was closed in preparation for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which began Monday evening.
The explosives, packed with nails and bullets, wrecked the car and damaged another three nearby, Jerusalem Police Chief Mickey Levy said. The car had been stolen a few months earlier, and its license plates changed, police said.
The militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the blast.
In a statement received by Western news agencies in Damascus, the group reiterated its refusal to honor the cease-fire. ”We stress that there are no red lines that restrict our holy war and any Zionist in any part of Palestine is a target for our heroic operations,” the statement said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said the bombing would not derail truce talks. ”We hope that (Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat will be able and ready to clamp down on these elements who are sending car bombs into Jerusalem,” he said.
Palestinian West Bank security chief Jibril Rajoub said the bombing was in neither side’s interest. ”I don’t think that it could contribute anything to our resistance against Israeli aggression, or prevent it,” he said.
Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, said Arafat was making every effort, but that ”at the end of the day he doesn’t have a magic stick to change things on the ground the way he wants to change them.”
Palestinian security officials have refused to arrest suspected Palestinian militants, a key demand by Israel. Joint meetings between security commanders on both sides resumed Monday following the cease-fire declaration last Wednesday.
The truce has been flawed by violent demonstrations and shootings that have left 18 Palestinians killed in less than a week. No Israelis have been killed, but the army said its troops have faced dozens of attacks by Palestinians.
Palestinians have accused Israel of using excessive force against stone-throwing Palestinian protesters marking the one-year anniversary of the Palestinian uprising.
In line with the cease-fire, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer ordered the army to start easing travel restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The army would continue to withdraw tanks from conflict areas that remain quiet, the statement said, and where joint security patrols are resumed.
According to the statement, Ben-Eliezer ordered the army ”to prevent, as much as possible, harming the civilian population and to ensure that existing open-fire regulations were adhered to.”
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