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Palestinian Police Arrest Militants After Bombings

By Mary Curtius
Los Angeles Times

Palestinian police rounded up scores of suspected Islamic militants Monday as Israelis buried their dead from the latest suicide bombing attacks and agonized over the wisdom of continuing negotiations with the Palestinians.

An American university student studying in Israel died Monday from wounds she sustained in one of two attacks Sunday in the Gaza Strip near Jewish settlements. She was the only civilian killed in the attacks.

An Israeli soldier also died of his wounds Monday, bringing to seven the number of soldiers killed in the two bombings. More than 40 people were wounded in the attacks.

In a statement read by an official at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, the parents of Alisa M. Flatow, a 20-year-old student at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, said they are donating her organs to Israeli transplant patients.

"Alisa loved the Jewish people, the Torah and the land of Israel," Flatow's parents, of West Orange, N.J., said in their statement. Flatow had been studying in a "yeshiva," or religious school, in Jerusalem. She was taking a bus to a beach resort run by Jewish settlers in Gaza when the attack occurred.

"That is the reality of the relationship between the United States and Israel. We are by your side and we share your greatest tragedies, and we are by your side and we share with you in your greatest triumphs," said Martin Indyk, the first Jewish U.S. ambassador to Israel.

The U.S. Embassy confirmed that two other Americans suffered minor wounds in the bombings. One was identified as Chavi Levine of Englewood, N.J. The other was not identified.

Indyk called on Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat to do more to control the security situation in Gaza.

"Chairman Arafat has on a number of occasions made clear that he intends to do that. We need to see 100 percent effort in that regard, and we are not satisfied with the efforts that have been undertaken today," Indyk said, referring to the mass arrests in Gaza.

Israeli opposition leaders renewed their demands that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin abandon the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord in the wake of the attacks near the Kfar Darom and Netzarim settlements. But Rabin allowed a scheduled round of negotiations on Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to begin as planned Monday in Cairo, Egypt.

Sixty-five Israelis have died in suicide bombings since October, when the fundamentalist Islamic Resistance Movement, known as Hamas, and the smaller Islamic Jihad adopted the method as a means of torpedoing the accord Israel signed with the PLO in September 1993.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad reject the accord, which grants Palestinians limited self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, areas Israel captured during the 1967 Middle East War.

Israel's Cabinet decided Monday to ban Palestinian drivers from a six-mile stretch of the main north-south Gaza road for an indefinite period of time in response to Sunday's attacks. The Cabinet also banned Palestinians from traveling on two access roads to the targeted settlements for an unspecified period.

The decision violates Israel's peace accord with the Palestinians, which ensures free access to all roads by both Israelis and Palestinians, said Dan Polissar, a staff researcher with Peace Watch, an Israeli group that monitors Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the accord.

But Israeli government spokesman Uri Dromi was unapologetic.

"With all due respect to the rights of people, we are talking about the rights of people not to be killed on the roads," Dromi said.

The road closure, Dromi insisted, "was done with the consent of the Palestinian Authority. They are not crazy about it, but they understand that the most important thing right now is to reduce drastically the friction between Israelis and Palestinians traveling in that area."

Hamas members said at least 150 members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad - all of whom, they insisted, are political supporters or academics, not guerrillas - had been arrested in connection with Sunday's attacks.

"This is a war on the movement," said Sayed abu Masmah, publisher of the Hamas newspaper Al Watan, which circulates in Gaza.