Palestinians kill 2 Israeli brothers selling fuel to Arabs in West Bank

Suicide bomber kills self in Jerusalem, in first such attack in weeks


TAPUAH, West Bank - Two Israeli brothers from this settlement were shot dead by masked Palestinian gunmen yesterday morning when they stepped out of their tanker truck to sell diesel fuel in a neighboring Palestinian village, Israeli officials said.

Later, at a falafel stand in Jerusalem, a suicide bomber blew himself up, wounding five other people, none seriously. It was the first such attack inside Jerusalem in more than a month, since back-to-back bombings killed 26 people and prompted Israel to begin its latest West Bank military offensive.

With Israelis already expecting a new wave of violence, the director of the internal security agency Shin Bet, Avi Dichter, warned a parliamentary committee yesterday that his organization had learned of 60 planned attacks. He said the Shin Bet had thwarted 12 attacks in the past week.

Palestinian militants have vowed to retaliate for an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City last week that killed a leader of the Islamic group Hamas and 14 other people, including nine children.

The Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group connected with Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for killing the two settlers, saying that its gunmen had acted to avenge "Palestinian warriors."

The two brothers killed, Shlomo Odesser, 60, and Mordechai Odesser, 52, were a rarity these days among Israeli settlers, Israeli officials said. They made a living doing business with the Palestinians in the villages surrounding their gated settlement, the home for years of one of the most radical anti-Arab political movements.

A Palestinian acquaintance from the village of Jammain called and asked them to deliver diesel oil, said Galit Wingrad, a spokeswoman for the Israeli police. Because of restrictions imposed by Israel, it is difficult if not impossible for Palestinians to distribute goods along major West Bank roads.

The two Israelis drove their tanker, with yellow Israeli license plates, through the dusty village and to an isolated cement factory. They climbed out of the cab, leaving behind an Uzi submachine gun, Wingrad said.

While the brothers were talking to the factory workers, two masked men emerged from a shed and shot both in the head at close range, she said, citing evidence at the scene and witnesses. She said a Palestinian called Israeli border police and told them of the killings.

Police said they suspect that a trap was laid for the two Israelis, but "everything has to be checked," Wingrad said. The Israeli army said it searched Jammain and other nearby villages yesterday and arrested several suspects.

The shooting was the latest in a series of attacks on Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Before dawn yesterday, a Palestinian armed with two knives entered the settlement of Itamar, near Nablus, and stabbed a man and woman. The man suffered moderate injuries and the woman light ones before soldiers shot and killed the attacker.

The suicide bomber who struck yesterday in Jerusalem was identified as Yousef Atta Khasim, a 17-year-old from Bethlehem. Police believe he was on his way to a more crowded target when he thought a police officer on patrol had spotted him. He stepped into the doorway of Yemenite Falafel Center on Hanev'im Street and blew himself apart.

But the officer, Sgt. Ofir Yona, had not noticed anything unusual.

"He didn't look suspicious," Yona said as workmen swept up broken glass. "He was clean-shaven, he had gel in his hair."

Meir Swissa, 24, was parking his car nearby at the time of the blast.

"I saw a young man in a black shirt, blue jeans with a backpack standing next to the falafel stand," he said. "I was looking at him and he simply exploded. Parts of him were blown everywhere."

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