At least 3 people are confirmed dead, and eight others wounded, Monday morning as two Palestinian suicide bombers blew themselves up in a mall in the southern Israeli town of Dimona.
Israeli media sources said that the blast was carried out by two suicide bombers, raising the death toll to 3, including the bombers and an Israeli woman.
The sources explained that as the two bombers attempted to approach the mall, an Israeli police man opened fire at them, killing one on the spot, while the other was able to blow himself up near cooking gas canisters.
Israeli David Adom ambulance service claimed that three people have been killed including a woman, with eight others wounded, most of them sustaining light injuries.
The attack is the first in over a year, with the last incident coming in January 2007 when a Palestinian bomber exploded himself in the Israeli city of Natanya.
Three Palestinian resistance groups have claimed responsibility for the Dimona bombing, including the Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades, an off-shot of Fatah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, the Abu Ali Mustafa brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and a new group called the national resistance brigades.
In a joint statement, faxed to the press, the three groups named the suicide bombers as Mosa Arafat from Khan Younis, and Loay al-Aghwani from Gaza city.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades, Fatah’s armed wing, held a press conference in Gaza, stating that today’s attack is a part of Palestinian resistance operations which will continue ‘as long as the Israeli occupation continues attacks on the Palestinian people.’
Abu Alwalid, spokesperson of the Al-Aqsa brigades, speaking to reporters on Monday said, ‘ we confirm that this operation has been already planned since December of last year, and it was about to be carried out on December 20th, yet it has been postponed for technical reasons’.
‘ Therefore, we strongly refute Israeli claims that our fighters have recently infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza-Egypt border lines. The fighters have been in the occupied Palestine (Israel), for a while, getting ready to carry out the operation. Palestinian-Egyptian ties are strong enough and can never be shaken’
Meanwhile, in an interview with IMEMC, senior member of Fatah’s revolutionary council in the West Bank, Mohammad al-Hurani, considered the attack a ‘natural reaction’ to the deteriorated conditions in the coastal region, where Israel maintain strict closures of the border crossings and carries out deadly attacks.
‘ I think that the Israeli side is deliberately escalating on the ground in a bid to undermine recent political moves’, al-Hurani maintained.
However, he made clear that the second portion of the blame for such an escalation should go to the Hamas takeover of Gaza last June, which he said helped perpetuate a state of tension, and dangerous new trends in the region,
Recently, Israeli security sources have warned of likely attacks on Israelis after the Egypt-Gaza border lines were reopened by crowds of Palestinians on January 23rd.
The Israeli military declared a high state of alert in light of such warnings, calling on Israelis not to embark on touristic travels inside the Egyptian Sinai peninsula, unless they were escorted by pre-organized security convoys.
Egyptian media outlets disclosed last week that the security forces rounded up dozens of Palestinians loaded with explosive devices.
Israel’s defense minister, whose cabinet is facing charges of failure in July 2006’s war with Lebanon, urged yesterday the erection of a fence-off wall along Egypt-Israel borders, in order to prevent what he considered likely attacks on Israel.
When faced with similar attacks in the past, the Israeli government regularly held Palestinians responsible for failing to thwart Palestinian resistance attacks.
The Gaza Strip, controlled by the Islamist party Hamas, has been closed off completely by Israel since June of last year, while the West Bank , where President Mahmoud Abbas holds sway, lies under the Israeli occupation’s military grip.
Khaled al-Batch, a local Gaza leader of the Islamic Jihad movement, told al-Jazeera satellite channel that Monday’s attack is a ‘ resistance operation’ in response to frequent Israeli army attacks on the Palestinian people, regardless of the body behind it.
Hamas’ spokesperson in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, was quoted by al-Jazeera as saying ‘ we congratulate the Palestinian people for this operation, which comes right after repeated attacks on the Palestinians over the past month, with more than 250 Palestinians killed’.
‘ It is a natural right, the international legitimacy has given us, in a time Israel continues to threaten the Palestinian people’ he commented on the attack on Dimona.
Mahmoud al-Habbash, minister of agriculture of the Palestinian government in Ramallah, where President Abbas of Fatah is in control, held Israel responsible for the attack, saying that ‘violence generates violence.’
However, he maintained that the Palestinians can not accept a return to the same ongoing cycle of violence between Palestinians and Israelis.
In September 2007, Israel declared Gaza a ‘hostile entity’ and imposed in October a series of punitive measures, including frequent deadly attacks and fuel supply cuts to Gaza’s 1.5 million residents, resulting in a humanitarian crisis in the coastal territory.
Israel claims its actions on Gaza are intended to stop homemade rockets fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip into nearby Israeli areas. Last Tuesday, the United States blocked passage of a non-binding UN Security Council’s resolution that condemned Israel’s actions.
Reacting to the strict Israeli closure of their region, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flooded on January 23rd into the nearby Egyptian town of Al-Arish, to bring in essential supplies cut off from them such as food, medicine, and fuel.