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Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 22:27 GMT
Blast hits West Bank settlement
Bar Pizza, Karnei Shomron
The pizzeria was gutted by the blast
A Palestinian suicide bomber has blown himself up in crowded restaurant at a Jewish settlement on the West Bank.

Two people were killed, as well as the bomber, and more than 20 are injured, six of them seriously.

Officials from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility, saying that the bomber was 18-year-old Sadek Abdel Hafeth, from the nearby town of Qalqilya.

But the Israeli Government says it holds Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat responsible.

Israeli Government spokesman Avi Pazner said the attack was "a continuation of the campaign of carnage and murder of Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority".

Mr Arafat has always denied Israeli accusations of complicity in such attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has convened his security cabinet to discuss the blast.

The explosion came shortly after the Palestinian militant group Hamas said it would avenge the killing of one of its military leaders, Nazih Abu Sabaa.

He died early on Saturday in the northern West Bank town of Jenin when his car exploded.

Palestinian officials blamed Israel, saying that the car was rigged with explosives.

Crowded cafe

The bomber blew himself up at 2000 local time (1800GMT) at Karnei Shomron, close to the northern border between the West Bank and Israel.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Israel has accused Arafat of complicity
The attack was the latest in a wave of Palestinian suicide attacks carried out during the 16-month-old uprising against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But it was the first time a West Bank settlement had been targeted in such an attack.

A pizzeria, crowded with young people out on a Saturday evening, was destroyed, with debris hanging from what remained of the ceiling.

"I heard a huge bang and everything fell apart," a worker at the pizzeria told Israeli Army radio.

"There is lots of blood on the floor," said another eye-witness.

Arafat blamed

The blast was the latest an 18-month campaign
In the Gaza Strip, Saturday saw three Palestinians - two of them teenagers - killed during a gun battle as Israeli troops, backed by tanks and bulldozers, seized control of Palestinian security posts close to the al-Bureij refugee camp.

The violence threatens to undermine European efforts to bring the Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.

The BBC's James Reynolds reports from Jerusalem
"This area of the West Bank has become a dangerous place"
See also:

16 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
02 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are the suicide bombers?
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