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Suicide Bombing Kills Three in Israel

Shortly after a warning of a suicide attack, a Palestinian bomber disguised in an Israeli army uniform slipped into a produce market Sunday and blew himself up, killing three Israelis, wounding at least 50 and ending a brief period of relative calm inside Israel.

Hours later, Palestinians said several Israeli armored vehicles rolled into part of the West Bank city of Ramallah, where Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's office is headquartered.

An army spokeswoman confirmed that an Israeli force entered the city, saying shots had been fired at an Israeli motorist traveling to a nearby West Bank settlement. The driver was unhurt, she added.

The troops withdrew a short time later, without any contact with Palestinians, the spokeswoman said.

Early Monday, a suicide bomber detonated explosives, killing only himself, after he was approached by a paramilitary patrol in northern Israel, about 10 miles from the West Bank town of Jenin. Police said there were no other casualties.

The Sunday afternoon bombing overturned stalls of apples, tomatoes and cabbages in a narrow aisle at the open-air market in the coastal city of Netanya, and also overshadowed political initiatives under discussion in recent days.

In the hours before the blast, Israeli security forces had been on alert in the Netanya area, targeted 11 times in the past two years, after receiving information that a suicide bomber was preparing an attack.

However, such warnings are virtually everyday events in Israel, and unless the information is highly specific, it is not necessarily enough to prevent attacks by bombers who need only a moment to strike in busy public places.

"There was a warning," said police spokeswoman Shira Lieberman. "Authorities knew there would be an attack in the greater Netanya area."

But the bomber, who died in the explosion, was wearing an olive green Israeli army uniform — a common sight on Israeli streets — and that may have helped him avoid notice.

"It appears he arrived with someone else who dropped him off at the market," said Lieberman. "He moved through the stalls until he found some place to blow himself up."

One Israeli was killed instantly and two later died of their injuries, police said Monday. At least 50 were wounded, including several in serious condition.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, armed and masked men paraded through the streets with loudspeakers claiming responsibility for the attack in the name of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The radical group was behind the assassination of Israel's tourism minister last year.

The Palestinian leadership issued a collective statement declaring its "full condemnation for the terror attack that targeted Israeli civilians."

In Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney said: "I think there clearly is a class of bombings" that Arafat can't rein in.

"On the other hand, there have in the past been bombings by elements of Palestinian organizations that come under his control and there he clearly has the capacity to act," Cheney told NBC's Meet the Press.

Violence has been down in May compared to the blood-soaked months of March and April, a development that has given rise to a number of political proposals.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres outlined a peace plan that held out the possibility of the establishment of a state in areas already under Palestinian control. The plan is seen as a long shot and did not win immediate backing from senior leaders on either side.

Meanwhile, Arafat planned to meet senior Palestinian figures late Sunday to discuss the prospect of Palestinian elections in coming months.

But the Netanya bombing was a stark reminder of the ever-present threat of renewed violence.

Netanya is on the Mediterranean coast, just nine miles from the West Bank, and has been frequently targeted by Palestinian militants. On March 27, an attack in a Netanya hotel killed 29 people at the beginning of the Jewish Passover holiday, and Israel responded with a sweeping offensive in the West Bank aimed at dismantling the militant groups in the Palestinian autonomous zones.

"Anyone who thought that the Palestinian terror campaign against Israelis is over is completely mistaken," said David Baker, an official in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office. "The Palestinian terror campaign continues unabated, as does Israel's battle against terror."

The last deadly bombing in Israel was May 7, when a suicide bomber from the militant group Hamas killed 15 Israelis at a pool hall just south of Tel Aviv.

Israel had threatened to retaliate with an offensive in the Gaza Strip. However, with the United States and other countries urging restraint, Israel decided not to unleash the offensive then, but warned it might do so later.

Sunday's bombing came hours after Peres outlined his peace plan, which calls for streamlining the Palestinian security forces, a development that would be followed by the establishment of a state in areas already under Palestinian control.

Israel has accused the Palestinian security forces of involvement in the violence and has pressed for the multiple, overlapping security services to be reorganized with an emphasis on preventing attacks against Israelis.

Peres, a leading dove, said in a radio interview Sunday that he is trying to get Sharon and the international community to support the proposal.

Sharon has accepted a Palestinian state in principle but says it can be established only after a long interim process that would last years, possibly even a decade or more.

Palestinian autonomy zones now cover some two-thirds of the Gaza Strip and islands of territory amounting to about 40 percent of the West Bank.

No senior Israeli or Palestinian official has publicly endorsed the Peres plan and it was not clear whether it would generate any real support.

Despite the decline in violence this month, shooting still breaks out daily.

Palestinian gunmen opened fire Sunday on a convoy of Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army said. During an ensuing gun battle, four soldiers were lightly wounded.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army said it was investigating several incidents this weekend in which three Arabs, including an Israeli Arab woman, were mistakenly killed by soldiers.

In a fourth incident, soldiers Saturday shot and wounded a deaf, mentally ill Israeli Arab who was wandering near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and failed to hear the soldiers' calls for him to halt.

Also Sunday, the European Union agreed on where to send 13 Palestinian militants exiled under a deal that ended Israel's siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem earlier this month.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry said that Spain and Italy will each take three of the militants, Greece and Ireland will each take two, and Portugal and Belgium will each accept one. One of the men will remain in Cyprus, which has been temporarily putting up the men for the past two weeks.