Female suicide bomber attacks Israeli troops
A Palestinian suicide bomber blew herself up near Israeli troops yesterday in a Gaza town where Israeli forces had killed two women acting as human shields for militants, residents said.
The Israeli army, confirming the suicide attack in Beit Hanoun, said one soldier was slightly wounded and evacuated to hospital in the first such bombing against Israelis since April. On the Palestinian political front, President Mahmoud Abbas travelled to the Gaza Strip for talks with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on a unity government they hope can ease Western sanctions against the Hamas-led administration. A government spokesman said Hamas has chosen a candidate to take over as prime minister from Mr Haniyeh, one of the Islamist group's leaders, once a deal with Mr Abbas is finalised. Past talks aimed at completing an agreement have failed.
Government spokesman Ghazi Hamad declined to identify Hamas's proposed replacement.
"Palestine is bigger than all of us," Mr Haniyeh told a meeting of his cabinet in what sounded like a farewell speech. "It is very easy for us to move to another position in the interests (of our people)."
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, where Israeli troops have been operating for the past six days in a bid to curb cross-border rocket attacks.
"Soldiers called on the woman to stop, then she blew herself up," an Israeli army spokesman said.
Relatives identified her as Mervat Masaoud, an 18-year-old student at Gaza's Islamic University. They said one of her cousins had blown himself up, along with another bomber, at Israel's Ashdod port in 2004 in an attack that killed 10 people. On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two women acting as human shields outside a mosque where gunmen had holed up in Beit Hanoun, witnesses said. The militants escaped.