Suicide bomber kills three in Israeli city of Netanya


A suicide bomber blew himself up in an Israeli market today, killing three other people and shattering a sense of security that had slowly been returning to public places in Israel.

The blast in the seaside city of Netanya raised the spectre of military retaliation nearly two weeks after Israel called off a planned Gaza Strip offensive following a Palestinian suicide bombing that killed 15 Israelis near Tel Aviv.

In a statement, the Palestinian Authority said it condemned the terrorist operation that targeted Israeli civilians in Netanya .

It was the second attack on the city within two months, following an attack on a hotel which killed 29 in March.

The radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said it carried out today's bombing, which also wounded more than 35 people.

Israeli police said a suicide terrorist detonated an explosives belt. The bomber and another man were killed on the spot in the fruit and vegetable market and two others died in hospital, medical officials said.

"I heard a huge boom and saw body parts flying," a witness, Eli Maimon, told Army Radio.

He (the bomber) came in an army uniform. As rescue workers poured into the Netanya market, a bloodied, half-naked man crawled through vegetables and shopping bags on the pavement. A body lay in the refuse between the market stalls.

"We were laughing about how the day had passed so quietly, and then suddenly there was an explosion," Mr Avi Shemesh, a market vendor, said. "I saw blood everywhere, people staggering and a guy whose face was all burned."

Other witnesses said the market was relatively empty at the start of the Israeli work week.

Israelis had recently begun returning to shopping centres, beaches and restaurants after a six-week West Bank military offensive that Israel launched on March 29th after the last Netanya bombing sharply cut the frequency of suicide attacks.

Palestinians are still picking up the pieces from the assault, which followed near-daily suicide strikes.

Palestinian officials have been pondering elections and reform in the face of internal, international and Israeli demands for a restructuring of the Palestinian Authority and its security forces.

US national security adviser Ms Condoleezza Rice said in Washington the Netanya attack underscores the importance of reform of the Palestinian Authority...of getting a unified security apparatus that can be accountable and can deal with issues of terrorism and breaking up terrorist networks .