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Israelis step up security, probe suicide-bombing by woman

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JERUSALEM — Israeli security forces flooded downtown Jerusalem on Monday, taking up prominent positions on sidewalks and rooftops a day after the latest bomb attack. Israel's government weighed a response as it tried to determine the political affiliation of the female bomber.

A Palestinian man was shot and killed on the outskirts of Tel Aviv after driving his car through a roadblock, running down and injuring an Israeli soldier and policeman. It was unclear if the driver was carrying out a premeditated attack; Israeli police said he was unarmed.

In Jerusalem, soldiers were stationed every few yards along Jaffa Street, the busy thoroughfare where the bomber killed herself and an elderly Israeli man Sunday. Marksmen were stationed on rooftops Monday, and police from the anti-terrorism unit cruised up and down the street on motorcycles.

About a dozen people were hurt in Sunday's bombing, and more than 100 were treated for shock.

American Mark Sokolow, 43, who survived the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, was among those injured. His wife Rina and their daughters Jamie and Lauren were also hurt, though none of the injuries was life-threatening.

The family, from Woodmere, N.Y., was visiting a third daughter who is studying in Jerusalem.

"I heard a loud whoosh, like a bang, and I kind of saw things flying around a little bit, and then I realized I was able to get up and walk around," Sokolow told Israel television from his hospital bed.

On Sept. 11, Sokolow was working on the 38th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower when the first hijacked airliner slammed into the north tower. His office was evacuated and he escaped unharmed before the second plane hit the south tower.

On Monday, Palestinian security forces evacuated several buildings in West Bank towns, fearing Israeli retaliation for Sunday's bombing.

No group claimed responsibility for the bombing. However, Israel has often responded to such attacks by targeting Palestinian security buildings, saying the Palestinian leadership and the security forces are responsible for preventing such attacks.

Israeli Police Chief Shlomo Aharonishky said the massive deployment could deter or contain future attacks, but nothing could offer an absolute guarantee.

"Proper police operations and deployment in the field mean that even if an incident takes place it is ended as quickly as possible," he told Israeli radio.

Aharonishky said the already widespread ban on Palestinians crossing from the West Bank into Israel might need to be expanded and controls introduced on passage from Arab to Jewish areas of Jerusalem.

"Such barriers, if they are introduced, will not alone solve all the problems, and the reality is that we have no universal solution," he said.

Israel held Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat responsible for the Sunday bombing.

Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Arafat is "encouraging terrorism; he's sending (attackers) to Jerusalem."

Pledging retaliation, deputy Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra said, "we have to fight back."

But Palestinian West Bank security chief Jibril Rajoub said Sunday's bombing was the result of an increasing sense of despair among Palestinians.

"People have lost hope in the future," he told Israel Radio. "The economic and psychological situations are tough, and I think it leads to unusual cases like this."

Radical Muslim groups such as Islamic Jihad or Hamas, who regularly train and equip suicide bombers, did not say whether they were involved in Sunday's attack.

Police said the body of the Palestinian woman student was so badly blown apart that the forensic evidence may not indicate whether she was carrying out a suicide attack, or if she intended to plant the bomb.

"We know that she was either holding (explosives) or had something on her," police spokesman Gil Kleiman said. "We still don't know for sure that she was a suicide bomber."

If it was a suicide attack, it would be the first one carried out by a woman in the current Mideast conflict. In 1985, when Israel had troops in south Lebanon, a 16-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl drove a car bomb into an Israeli army checkpoint, killing herself and two soldiers.

Two Arab television stations, the Qatar-based Al Jazeera and the Lebanon-based Al-Manar, reported that the bomber was Shinaz Amuri, a student at Al-Najah University in the West Bank town of Nablus.

However, neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials could confirm this, and the university said no such person was a student.

More than 30 Palestinian men have carried out suicide attacks during the current conflict, killing dozens of Israelis and wounding hundreds.

In addition, there have been instances where Palestinian gunmen have stormed Israeli military sites and opened fire in attacks that were effectively suicide missions.

Palestinian women have taken a larger part in public life in the West Bank and Gaza than in some other Muslim societies, but they have rarely played leading roles in the armed conflict.