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Last Updated: Monday, 5 December 2005, 17:00 GMT
Five die in Israel suicide blast
Scene of the blast in Netanya
Emergency services were on the scene within minutes
A Palestinian suicide bomber has killed five people and injured dozens in the Israeli coastal town of Netanya.

The bomber attacked the Sharon shopping centre, the scene of previous bombings, at about 1130 (0930 GMT), injuring some 40 people, several of them seriously.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the attack and released a video of the bomber.

Israeli security officials were due to meet later in the day to discuss possible responses to the attack.

Reports quoting military officials say they will recommend air strikes targeting militant leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz has also asked the legal authorities for permission to renewal the controversial policy of demolishing suicide bombers' homes.

Before Monday's bombing, Mr Mofaz had already ordered a resumption of so-called "targeted killings" of wanted Palestinian militants.

Heightened tensions in recent days have been marked by Israeli air strikes and Palestinian militant rocket attacks.

Security checks

Reports from Netanya suggest the bomber was prevented from entering the shopping centre by police and security guards. He then detonated several kilograms of explosives outside the gate.

"Just as police were going to check him, he put his hand in a bag and blew himself up," deputy police chief Avi Sasson said on Israel Radio.

SUICIDE ATTACKS IN ISRAEL
5 Dec: Five die, Netanya
26 Oct: Six die, Hadera market
28 Aug: 20 hurt, Beersheba
12 July: Two die, Netanya
25 Feb: Five die, 50 hurt, outside Tel Aviv nightclub

"There was a boom and there was a flash," witness Yisrael Klein told Israeli TV.

"Seconds later, people were lying on the ground, some wounded and some dead."

Israeli TV showed panels across the front of the shopping mall shattered by the force of the blast.

The Islamic Jihad group named the bomber as Lutfi Amin Abu Salem, from a village between the West Bank towns of Jenin and Tulkarm.

A video released by the group showed the purported bomber posing with a grenade launcher and an assault rifle.

The attack was the first suicide bomb in Israel since a blast in the town of Hadera on 26 October.

Accusations

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Netanya bombing as an act of "terrorism" and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Senior negotiator Saeb Erekat said the attack "harms Palestinian interests" and called on both sides to maintain the ceasefire declared in February.

But a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the Palestinian Authority had failed to act against militants.

"They refuse to dismantle the terror organisations and put them out of business once and for all. And we've seen these results today in Netanya," said spokesman David Baker.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, speaking for the European Union, condemned the bombing as "cowardly" and urged the Palestinian Authority to do more to prevent such attacks in future.

Netanya has been a frequent target for suicide attacks.

In 2002 an attack at a Passover meal killed 29 people and sparked a huge Israeli military operation in the West Bank.

The last attack was in July, when another Islamic Jihad bomber attacked the Sharon shopping centre, killing two people.


Have you been affected by the bombing? Send us your comments using the form below.

Do you have any images of the incident? If so, you can send them to yourpics@bbc.co.uk


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received:

I have witnessed the attack today as I was passing by the shopping centre, I suddenly saw a flash and heard a explosion a split-second later. The scene was horrible there was lots of blood on the floor and people were lying on the ground either dead or injured, I do not know. I was quite a distance away and I think I am very lucky I wasn't very near at the time because I usually pass straight by the shopping centre.
Khzar Tadum, Netanya, Israel

A member of my family had a very close call this morning, when he drove past the exact spot of the bombing just minutes before it exploded. This is not the first time he (or I for that matter) has had a lucky escape. How long can one rely on miracles before someone - if not the Palestinians, then the Israelis - takes some real action against terrorism? Mr Abbas is always very quick to condemn these bombings, but it's just lip service. He does nothing to stop terrorism.
Anne, Petach Tikva, Israel

This is the second bombing that I have heard, felt & smelt from my apartment. The unmistakable bang, followed by a plume of smoke, and I instantly realised a bomb had gone off. Five people's lives ended instantly at 11.20 on a Monday morning, and to what end? It is increasingly clear that whatever gestures Israel makes towards the Palestinians in general, there are significant elements within the Palestinian population that have no other intention than to kill and wound Israelis. Nothing makes a difference to them. They don't even seem to care how these disgusting, cowardly acts impact on their fellow citizens too.
Michael Lewis, Netanya, Israel

Yesterday I was at the Sharon shopping mall and as I drove over the exact spot of the previous suicide bomb which killed 4, I wondered if I would be witness to another bombing. My daughter went to the same mall earlier this week to see a film and was given strict instructions not to use the front entrance, the scene of at least four or five suicide bombings over the past years. The chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time is every present and a constant, niggling worry.
Deborah Oppenheimer, Pardessiya, Israel

My thoughts are with the people affected by this. I spent time in Netanya around the time of the first Gulf War. It's a nice town - the locals were very kind and friendly to me.
Mark, London, UK

Although I have come home for a few weeks I am currently living on a kibbutz near Netanya and have regularly visited the mall. It's scary what has happened but I know that it will not stop people getting on with there lives in Israel people are very strong there about these sort of things. All I can ask is for peace and for this to stop
Neil Winston, Scotland

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