Suicide bomber kills three Israelis

March 31, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

JERUSALEM -- A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up just outside a Jewish settlement in the northern West Bank last night, killing three Israelis, authorities said.

Israeli officials said it appeared that the bomber hitched a ride with the Israelis, perhaps by disguising himself as a religious Jew, and then set off the explosives inside the vehicle as it approached the Kedumim settlement.

"It seems that he hitchhiked. The theory at the moment is that he was dressed up," said Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman.

An offshoot of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which is tied to the Fatah movement led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, claimed responsibility for the attack, the Associated Press reported.

The attack was the first suicide bombing in the West Bank since a bomber detonated himself Dec. 29 near an Israeli military checkpoint outside the town of Tulkarm, killing an Israeli soldier and two other Palestinians.

The attack came two days after Israeli voters gave their biggest support to parties that favor further withdrawals from the West Bank, even if done unilaterally.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, leader of the Kadima movement formed last fall by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has called for setting permanent borders within four years by pulling back to the main settlement blocs nearest Israel.

It is a moment of heightened uncertainty because the Palestinian government is also in transition, with the radical Islamic group Hamas in charge. Yesterday, Hamas ministers assumed their new posts after handover ceremonies that were largely orderly.

Hamas soundly defeated Fatah in parliamentary elections in January, but it is under international pressure to moderate its militant stance toward Israel or risk losing hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to the Palestinians.

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