Hamas strikes back

02 August 2002

Five US nationals and two Israelis were killed on 31 July when a bomb exploded at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The Palestinian Hamas said the attack was 'a first response' to the Israeli bombing of a residential area of Gaza City on 22 July which killed 17 Palestinians, including the group's military leader Sheikh Salah Shehada.

The latest explosion came a day after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a fast-food stand in the centre of Jerusalem, injuring several passers-by. In a separate incident, the body of an Israeli factory worker was discovered outside the West Bank town of Tulkarm.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) condemned the university bombing, but said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was 'responsible for this cycle of violence'. Israeli Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was reported to have approved rapid military retaliation against Hamas targets, as Israeli police braced themselves for more attacks. The university bombing was 'part of a series of responses that will take a long time and teach all Israelis,' Hamas said in a statement.

Following the university bombing, Israeli forces were reported to have shelled civilian areas of Khanis Younis and Al-Gharby on the Gaza Strip and bulldozed houses in the city of Rafah, on the Egyptian border. The latest violence follows a period of renewed contacts between the PA and the Israeli government, which had earlier released some $15 million in frozen tax revenues to the Palestinian treasury.

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