Bomber Hits Israeli Shopping Mall

An Islamic Jihad terrorist blew himself up Monday outside the Sharon Mall in Netanya, which has seen several such attacks due to its proximity to the West Bank. At least five people were killed and more than 50 wounded. The bomber was identified as a 21-year-old man from the West Bank.

Israel responded by closing the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and launched a military crackdown in the West Bank on Tuesday. Israeli troops swept into the suicide bomber’s home village near Tulkarm, arresting his father and three brothers, witnesses said.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said the action against Islamic Jihad would be comprehensive and long-lasting.

Sensing that the situation could spiral out of control, P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the bombing and pledged to arrest those responsible.

Chaim Amram, 26, the security guard on duty, took the suspect aside as he approached the mall around 11:30 a.m. Amram pushed him against the wall, but it was too late — the bomber triggered his explosives, killing Amram and four others. Dozens more were wounded.

The victims had little in common except for the fatal timing of their visit to the Sharon Mall, the major shopping center in the seaside city of Netanya.

A few feet away from Amram, Iliya Rosen, 38, a psychologist and mother of three, was just leaving the mall after a shopping expedition for clothes for the job she was scheduled to begin next week. She, too, was killed instantly by the blast.

Rosen had walked speedily out of the mall, telling a friend that she didn’t feel comfortable being there.

Her friend, identified by her first name, Orit, in the Israeli media, said she teased her, saying, “I asked her ‘Where are you rushing to, are you scared of being in the next terror attack?'”

A moment later, Rosen was dead.

Dani Golani, 45, who had come from Nahariya to Netanya to explore whether he might open a clothing store in the mall, also was among those killed. Active in Nahariya local politics, he was remembered warmly by friends and family.

“It was hard to separate him from his smile. He loved to live, and loved his family,” said Tzion Lankari, a Nahariya council member and long-time friend of Golani.

The attack also took the life of Alexandra Gramitzky, 65, who immigrated to Israel in 1997 from Ukraine, where she had worked as an accounts manager. She lived in Netanya with her son and his family.

The youngest victim of the bombing was Keinan Tzoami, who celebrated his 20th birthday last month. Tzoami was remembered as a good-natured young man with lots of friends. He worked with his father at a family carpentry business.

His grandmother entered the house where he had lived with his parents and wailed, “Bring me my grandson. I just want my grandson.”

Sharon’s right-wing rivals in the Likud Party — which he left last month, founding a new, centrist party to compete in March 28 general elections — lost no time in condemning him.

“Thanks to Sharon, we risk seeing a terror base being created right next to the Dan region,” said legislator Uzi Landau, who withdrew from the Likud primary race Monday to endorse the front-runner, Benjamin Netanyahu. “Today’s terror attack is only a sign of things to come.”

On the left, Labor Party leader Amir Peretz was quick to call for an “all-out crackdown on terror” while also appealing to Israeli doves by vowing, if he’s elected prime minister, to withdraw from large areas of the West Bank.

Mofaz ordered a resumption of air strikes aimed at killing Palestinian terrorists involve in producing and launching rockets.