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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Peace Talks to Go On After Tel Aviv Bombs

JERUSALEM -- Israel, the PLO and the United States sought Friday to blunt the impact on faltering Middle East peace talks of two bombs that wounded 13 people in Tel Aviv.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to respond with "extreme severity" if the crude devices proved to have been planted by Arabs from areas under the control of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.


Israeli and Palestinian officials said they would continue talks with U.S. envoy Dennis Ross on the delayed transfer of parts of the West Bank to Arafat.


U.S. officials said Ross would stay in the region to try to broker an agreement.


Israeli police said they did not know who dropped the bombs in garbage cans near Tel Aviv's old central bus station Thursday night.


Netanyahu blamed "terrorists." Police said Friday forensic evidence pointed to a terrorist act but they could not rule out a criminal gangland attack. Israel radio quoted police sources as saying the bombs weighing several hundred grams were made of lemon, nitric acid and acetone. It was not clear whether they were packed with nails as earlier reported, the radio said.


No one claimed responsibility for the blasts which came one week after an off-duty Israeli soldier shot into a crowd of Palestinians in the West Bank town of Hebron, wounding seven Arabs. Militant Moslem groups vowed to avenge the attack.


Israel's Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani said Friday he expected full security cooperation with Arafat "because we are all in favor of the peace process."


He told Israel radio that he did not believe the bombings were directly linked to the deadlock over an Israeli troop redeployment from Hebron and dates for further pullbacks.


"I don't believe anyone is trying to speed up or thwart the signing by these attacks," Kahalani said. He said the bombs were of the kind used in Palestinian attacks in the 1970s and 1980s.


This has led some Israeli and Palestinian officials to speculate that small, secular Palestinian factions opposed to the Israel-PLO peace accords were behind the attacks rather than the larger Hamas or Islamic Jihad fundamentalist groups that have used suicide bombers over the past three years.


"I don't think Palestinians were behind these explosions because such attacks serve only Netanyahu," Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu Meddein said. Arafat fears that Netanyahu will cite violence as a reason for delaying the transfer.


U.S. officials said Ross had all but sewn up the Hebron part of the deal but Palestinians have turned down a U.S. compromise date of 1998 for completing further West Bank withdrawals. They insist Israel respect the original timetable under which the three pullbacks should be finished by September.