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Suicide Bomber Attacks Tel Aviv Shopping Mall, Kills 2, Injures 15

By Laura King
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- JERUSALEM

A Palestinian suicide bomber made his way to the edge of an open-air shopping mall in a leafy Tel Aviv bedroom community at dusk Monday and detonated a bomb strapped to his body, killing two Israelis and injuring at least 15 others, including two infants.

A security guard, who was one of those killed, managed to block the bomber from entering the mall and causing many more casualties, authorities said.

The latest violence came against a backdrop of political drama triggered by the collapse last week of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s alliance with the left-center Labor Party, which pulled out of his coalition and left him without a parliamentary majority.

Sharon’s minority government survived a succession of three no-confidence votes in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, only moments before the suicide attack in the central city of Kfar Sava, six miles from Tel Aviv. It was the second suicide bombing aimed at Israelis in six days.

The parliamentary proceedings, said Cabinet Minister Danny Naveh, were held “in the suffocating atmosphere of a new attack ... a new reminder that we are still facing a war of terror.”

Initial reports of the suicide blast were just filtering in as Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, the architect of some of Israel’s harshest measures against the Palestinians, was sworn in as Sharon’s new defense minister.

Mofaz’s term as military chief of staff ended in July, raising unease in some quarters that the transition period was too short between his army career, in which he oversaw day-to-day Israeli operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and his new Cabinet position, in which he will be involved in making policy regarding the Palestinians.

“It is totally unhealthy,” said lawmaker Yossi Sarid, whose left-leaning Meretz Party led the fight against Mofaz’s confirmation and also spearheaded the no-confidence votes against Sharon.