In two simultaneous attacks, three Palestinian gunmen opened fire on pedestrians along a crowded, hotel-lined boardwalk in the coastal town of Netanya late Saturday, wounding at least 38 people before being shot dead, police said.

The Al Aqsa Brigades, a militia linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility in a phone call to The Associated Press.

The gunmen opened fire from two different areas along the boardwalk. A manager of one of the hotels in the area told Israel Radio the attackers also hurled a grenade into a hotel lobby.

"People were lying on the floor. In a few minutes ambulance crews arrived and evacuated the wounded, and the police were chasing the attacker," said the man, whose name was not given.

Some reports said one of the attackers was disguised as a policeman. Israel TV said a fourth gunman escaped and that there was an exchange of fire between him and police officers in pursuit, but the report could not immediately be confirmed.

At least nine of the wounded bystanders, including a baby, were in serious condition, doctors said.

The shooting attack took place after the end of the Jewish Sabbath, a time when the boardwalk area is crowded with pedestrians.