Islamic militants opposed to the Israeli-PLO peace process killed six Israeli soldiers and wounded dozens of people in two suicide bombings Sunday near isolated Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said he would continue talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization despite calls by right-wing opponents and some of his allies to halt them in protest.In the first attack, a van parked by the main Gaza highway exploded near an Israeli bus at about noon, killing six soldiers, said Brig. Gen. Doron Almog, Israel's commander in Gaza. Officials said 34 people were wounded.
Two hours later, about six miles up the road, a Palestinian car drove into an Israeli convoy of military and civilian cars and exploded, Almog said. Eleven Israelis were wounded, including two girls ages 2 and 4, and two soldiers who were in critical condition.
Three of those injured were Americans, said White House spokesman Mike Mc-Curry, who was traveling with President Clinton in Los Angeles. He wouldn't give their names, and didn't say in which attack they were wounded.
One of those wounded in the first attack was identifed as Alisa M. Flatow of West Orange, N.J., a Brandeis University junior on leave to study at a Jerusalem yeshiva. Her mother, Rosalyn Flatow, said her daughter was unconscious and on a respirator after surgery.
The militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the first attack and said it was carried out by Khaled Mohammed Khatib, a 24-year-old construction worker.
Sources in the group Hamas confirmed a report that the group's military wing, Izzedine al-Qassam, staged the second attack. They identified the suicide bomber as Imad Abu Amouna, also 24, from the Shati refugee camp.
More than 100 fundamentalist youths gathered at Khatib's home in the Nuseirat refugee camp, their cries for revenge mingling with the wails of women from inside the house and the crack of gunshots fired into the air.
"The language of bullets is the only one that will guarantee the departure of the enemy from our territory," one Islamic Jihad activist intoned through a loudspeaker.
PLO leader Yasser Arafat strongly condemned the attacks, but did not say how he would respond. "We are committed to confronting terrorism," he said. "These people are the enemies of peace."
Palestinian police began arresting Islamic Jihad activists in Gaza City on Sunday evening.
Israel Radio said Arafat called Rabin to offer condolences, and Rabin asked him to do more to rein in the militants.
Other Israeli leaders warned that chances of reaching agreement on expanding Palestinian autonomy by a July 1 target date are slipping away. Gaza and the West Bank town of Jericho became autonomous 11 months ago, and talks are underway to extend self-rule throughout the West Bank.
After the weekly Cabinet meeting, Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein said the July 1 deadline could be met only if Arafat declared "all-out war" on militants.
Rabin, who toured the bus bomb site as experts were still blowing up suspicious objects, said, however, "We won't stop the negotiations."
He also credited Israel's closure of its borders with Gaza and the West Bank in January with preventing such attacks inside Israel itself.
The closure, which has kept thousands of Palestinians from their jobs in Israel, was imposed after a suicide bomber killed 21 people in central Israel.
The bus was attacked Sunday near the fenced-in Kfar Darom settlement.