JERUSALEM – A Palestinian blew himself up in Israeli territory near the West Bank Monday, killing only himself.
Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said he believed the bomber was one of five assailants for whom Israeli security forces have been searching. Ben-Eliezer has said Israel received intelligence information that five Palestinian homicide bombers are trying to infiltrate Israel.
Monday's aborted attack took place near the Israeli Arab village of Marja, in Israeli territory close to the West Bank, said police spokesman Gil Kleiman. As border police approached a Palestinian man to check him, he set off explosives he was carrying, damaging the police patrol vehicle but causing no injuries to the police.
The incident occurred one day after Israel began construction of a fence along one-third of the so-called Green Line, Israel's frontier before it captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war.
Israeli settlers in the West Bank and their supporters in the right-wing parties in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's coalition maintain the fence is a prelude to an Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line. Palestinians fear the fence only further carves up West Bank land they hope one day will make up their state.
"This is a fascist, apartheid measure being done, and we do not accept it," Arafat said of the fence. "We will continue rejecting it by all means."
Ben-Eliezer said the fence isn't political and is intended only to save Israeli lives by keeping out Palestinian gunmen and bombers. More than 220 Israelis have been killed in homicide bomb attacks in the past 21 months of fighting and all the attackers came from the West Bank. The Gaza Strip is fenced in.
Ben-Eliezer said Monday that up to a half-mile of fence is expected to be installed daily in the first stage of the project, intended to raise a 75-mile barrier. Within a week or two, he told Israel Army Radio, planning should begin to extend the fence north and south for a total of about 215 miles.
The fence is to roughly follow the Green Line, but parts of it will veer into the West Bank to bring some settlements close to the border onto the Israeli side.
Ben-Eliezer said that in some areas the fence will run on the Israeli side of the Green Line. A map of the planned first stage published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz showed it dipping often into the West Bank, reaching as far as 2 1/2 miles beyond the Green Line, and shaving only slightly into the Israeli side in a few places.
In other news, Yasser Arafat blasted U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on Monday for comments condemning his Palestinian Authority, saying she has no right to dictate to Palestinians how their future state should look.
Rice, in an interview with The Mercury News of San Jose, Calif., said a Palestinian state should not be based on Arafat's Palestinian Authority, which she said was "corrupt and cavorts with terror."
Asked about the Rice comment, Arafat said Monday that "she does not have the right to put or impose orders on us about what to do or not to do."
"We are doing what we see as good for our people and we do not accept any orders from anyone," Arafat said while touring schools in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
Arafat has been under U.S. and Israeli pressure to curb attacks on Israel, and both nations have begun urging changes to the Palestinian Authority. Israel wants Arafat sidelined. The United States has been openly critical of the Palestinian leader, but has stopped short of demanding that Arafat be replaced.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.