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Palestinian suicide bomber strikes at Jewish settlement
ARIEL, West Bank -- A Palestinian suicide bomber blew up Sunday as Israeli soldiers were shooting him, killing three people and himself at a gas station on the outskirts of one of the largest Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The 18 people injured included several soldiers, officials said.
Hours later, Israeli troops shot and killed two armed Palestinian militants in the nearby Palestinian city of Nablus, relatives of the dead men said. The Israeli army said troops were trying to make arrests when they came under fire. The soldiers shot back, killing the pair, the army said.
Israeli soldiers and civilians were at the station outside the heavily guarded Ariel settlement when a woman started shouting, "Suicide terrorist, suicide terrorist," said Yitzhak Zahavi, a reserve soldier who was slightly wounded.
Several soldiers told the man to stop and the attacker raised his hands, Zahavi told Israel Radio.
Four people were killed, including the bomber, and 18 people were injured, said Yerucham Mandola, spokesman for the Magen David Adom rescue service. The blast occurred in the gas station's parking lot, about 50 yards from the fuel pumps.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia loosely linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out by Mohammed Ishkair, 19, who is from the nearby city of Nablus. The group is loyal to Arafat, but says it operates independently.
The bomb went off as the attacker was being shot, and it was not clear whether the assailant detonated the bomb himself, or if the soldiers' bullets caused it to detonate, said Shachar Ayalon, Israel's police commander for the West Bank.
Ariel is one of the largest settlements in the West Bank with about 20,000 residents and is located about 20 miles north of Jerusalem.
On Sunday mornings, the gas station is a gathering place for troops catching rides back to their bases at the beginning of the Israeli work week.
Palestinian militants have carried out 80 suicide bombings, killing almost 300 people, since the Palestinian uprising against Israel began more than two years ago.
"Once again, the vicious agenda of Palestinian terrorists has taken its toll," said David Baker, an official in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office.
"Like spectators, the Palestinian Authority stands by and does nothing while Palestinian terrorists continue to wage a campaign of terror against Israeli civilians."
The Palestinian Authority, led by Arafat, has condemned bombings of Israeli civilians and says its security forces are unable to act against Palestinian militant groups because Israeli troops have taken over most cities in the West Bank.