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School bomb unveils Israeli militant threat

A bomb in a Palestinian schoolyard injured eight students and a staffer Tuesday.

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A bomb planted in a Palestinian schoolyard Tuesday is continuing to reverberate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though it caused fewer casualties than intended.

The bombing in East Jerusalem's Sur Baher neighborhood is thought to be the most extreme Jewish vigilante terrorist strike in years. And though it has been met with silence from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israeli analysts say it poses a grave danger for both sides.

Palestinians worry that it could signal an intensification of Jewish vigilante violence. And for Israelis, it points to the possibility of violent civilian miltancy growing as an accompaniment to the expanding military campaign in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"This is really an ominous event," says Ariel Merari, a Tel Aviv University specialist on the psychology of terrorism. "The climate of Israelis being killed daily and feeling that government efforts are not enough to stop it is such that, if small-time Jewish attacks are not dealt with very severely, they may proliferate."

For most Israelis, terrorist attacks by Jews against Palestinians are an occasional abberation compared with far more frequent, and now almost-daily, targeting of civilians by Palestinian groups. But Palestinians see the Israeli state - particularly the military - as engaging in terrorism itself.

The Sur Baher attack left, inside classrooms, eight pupils injured by glass shards. A staffer was hit by both shards and shrapnel. Educators who spotted the device ordered the evacuation of the courtyard, which is used daily by about 400 pupils for morning calisthenics at 7:50 a.m. - the time the device exploded.

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