No one injured after blast rocks West Bank near Jewish settlements

Sunday, April 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israeli-Palestinian tensions swelled as Passover ended and Easter began Sunday, when a roadside explosion went off near an Israeli army checkpoint on the West Bank. No injuries were immediately reported.

The blast occurred along a road connecting Jewish settlements on the West Bank to Israel. Military sources in Israel said they believed the explosion was caused by an unidentified device that was planted along the road.

The incident comes a day after two pipe bombs exploded in the Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Saba, injuring one Israeli seriously. The area where Sunday's blast occurred is only a few miles from Kfar Saba, just across from the so-called green line that divides the West Bank and Israel.

A group called the Aqsa Martyr Brigades took responsibility for the Kfar Saba bombings in a statement faxed to a news agency in Beirut. The group said the bombings were carried out ``to retaliate for the continued Israeli aggression.''

Meanwhile, Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul-Ilah Khatib was to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on Monday. Khatib plans to travel to Israel to promote a Jordan-Egypt plan aimed at defusing hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians.

The initiative calls on Israel to remove travel restrictions against Palestinians, transfer funds, pull back tanks and troops, stop construction of Jewish settlements and implement signed agreements. Once those steps are taken, peace negotiations would resume.

Sharon has said he would not comment on the plan until it is officially presented, but government officials have been quoted by Israeli media as saying it is unacceptable. Palestinians support the plan but say they have little hope that the Israeli side will agree to it.

``I think peace negotiations with Sharon are a waste of time,'' Ahmed Abdel Rahman, an aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, said Sunday. ``We do not expect any dramatic changes from this meeting.''

In the Gaza Strip on Sunday, more than 1,000 Palestinians attended the funeral of 25-year-old Mohammed Yassin Nassar, who was killed the day before when a bomb he was making went off in a house in Gaza City.

Hamas officials said Nassar was a driver for Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin.

``Our holy war will not stop until we end the occupation and liberate the Holy Land of Palestine. We will not give up,'' Hamas leader Abedl Aziz Rantisi told mourners. ``We will move forward in our march toward Jerusalem.''

On Saturday, 40 Palestinians were injured, four of them critically, by live and rubber-coated steel bullets during clashes with Israeli soldiers in two places in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Palestinians said.

The violence spread to another front Saturday when an Israeli soldier was killed on Israel's northern border in a missile attack by the Hezbollah militia. Israel launched air strikes on suspected militia hide-outs in retaliation.

The bloodshed over the weekend signaled an end to a brief ebb in the more than six months of fighting. The lull had followed a U.S.-sponsored meeting between security commanders from the two sides on Wednesday.

A second round of talks were scheduled for Monday, but a Palestinian Cabinet member said he saw no purpose in the meeting because the Israeli side seemed uninterested in peace.

``Israel itself does not want these meetings. The proof is continuous Israeli attacks after each meeting,'' Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told The Associated Press.