Robbers die trying to hold-up suicide bomber
27/04/2004 - 17:33:49
A Hamas suicide bomber blew up two armed Palestinians who tried to rob him at gun point in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas claimed the â€œstickup menâ€ worked for Israeli intelligence, while Palestinian security forces said the two were ordinary thieves.
Rather than give up his explosives, the bomber detonated them, killing himself and the two robbers near the border fence between Gaza and Israel.
Palestinian security officials said the the gunmen were criminals who were involved in a car theft ring that brought stolen vehicles from Israel to Gaza.
Hamas said the bomber was on his way to try to infiltrate into Israel, accompanied by another Hamas member and a guide, when they were stopped by the armed men.
The robbers forced the bomber to lie on the ground and tried to steal the bomb, but the militant detonated it, killing all three. The other Hamas man and the guide escaped.
There have been cases of rival groups stealing each otherâ€™s explosives, but no group claimed the two gunmen, and their families did not go to the hospital to take the bodies, indicating that the two were not militants, who are revered in Palestinian society.
A Hamas official said that whatever their intention, the two should be considered agents of Israel.
â€œAnyone who tries to stop a fighter from doing his work is a collaborator,â€ he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Hamas has been threatening punishing retaliatory attacks since Israel killed the founder of the Islamic group, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, in a helicopter missile strike on March 22, and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, in another missile attack three weeks later.
Because of the threats, security was especially tight for Israelâ€™s independence day holiday today.
Police set up roadblocks on highways, checking drivers, as Israelis crowded public parks and forests for traditional holiday cookouts.
Palestinians were banned from entering Israel, as they have been since a double suicide bombing attack that killed 10 Israelis in the port of Ashdod on March 14, idling about 16,000 Palestinian workers who have entry permits.
In Gaza, tens of thousands of Israelis streamed to Gush Katif, a bloc of Israeli settlements, to celebrate Israelâ€™s independence day and protest at Prime Minister Ariel Sharonâ€™s plan to withdraw from all of the coastal strip by next year.
The members of Sharonâ€™s Likud Party will vote on the plan on Sunday, with polls giving Sharon only a slight lead.
In an independence day interview on Israel TV, Sharon appeared confident that he would win the Likud vote on his disengagement plan.
By this time next year, he said, â€œwe will be in the midst of disengagement from Gaza.â€
In the northern West Bank, Israeli troops raided the Tulkarem refugee camp with jeeps and armoured personnel carriers and conducted house-to-house searches. Soldiers exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen, killing two and seriously wounding a third.
Israeli military officials said one of the dead was Ashraf Nafa, 21, the Hamas leader in Tulkarem.
The other was Amjad Amra, 21, from the Islamic Jihad group. The officials said both had links to Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and planned attacks against Israelis.
The wounded man, a member of Hamas, was taken to an Israeli hospital.