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Three Palestinian Bombers Injure 170, Kill Four Others

By John Lancaster
The Washington Post

Three Palestinians walked into a busy pedestrian shopping street here Thursday afternoon and detonated bombs, killing themselves and four others and wounding about 170. The bombing prompted another angry backlash from the Israeli government and further complicated the stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace talks just days before the scheduled arrival here of U.S. Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright.

The three separate blasts struck Ben Yehuda Street about 3 p.m. in an area crowded with strollers, shoppers, and diners at outdoor cafes. The successive explosions, audible throughout much of the city, blasted some people out of their chairs and sent others running down the street in panic.

Many of those wounded were foreign visitors and tourists, including a number of Americans.

Police promptly sealed off the area, which was strewn with body parts, upended cafe tables, and umbrellas and other debris. A corpse lay shrouded with white plastic, not far from the Burger King restaurant that is one of numerous American franchises on or near the street.

In a statement faxed to news agencies, the Muslim militant group Hamas took responsibility for the attack and warned that it would carry out more bombings unless Israel releases Hamas prisoners by 9 p.m. on Sept. 14.

Coming little more than a month after two suicide bombers blew up themselves and 15 other people at an outdoor market here on July 30, Thursday's carnage prompted a new round of harsh security measures by the Israeli military and heated rhetoric by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu '76. Military authorities immediately ordered a new ban on travel by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank into Israel and between Palestinian-controlled cities and hinted that they would resort to stronger measures to control the terrorist threat.

The incident also raised the challenge for American policymakers, in particular Albright, who is scheduled to arrive here Wednesday on her first visit to the Middle East since becoming secretary of state. Albright's decision to make the trip had been predicated in part on determinations by U.S. officials that Palestinian security forces had begun to take a more cooperative attitude toward protecting Israel's security.

Clinton, who called the bombing an "outrageous and inhuman act," spoke with Netanyahu after the bombing and vowed to continue to press the Palestinian Authority to do "its utmost"to provide adequate security in areas under its control."