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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2005, 16:16 GMT
W Bank suicide blast kills three
A wounded soldier is carried into the hospital in the central Israel town of Kfar Saba
Security officials have warned of an increase in suicide bombings
A Palestinian suicide bomber has killed two Palestinians and an Israeli soldier at checkpoint in the West Bank, the Israeli army has said.

The bomber was travelling in a minibus taxi and blew himself up when he was ordered out at a temporary checkpoint near the northern town of Tulkarm.

Israel's army said it had set up the roadblock after intelligence suggested a suicide bombing was being planned.

Israel has said an Islamic Jihad militant was behind the explosion.

"Their [Islamic Jihad's] efforts to put suicide bombers in the centre of Israel are always ongoing," Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Zeev Boim told Israel Radio.

Mr Boim praised the army for stopping the bomber before he reached an Israeli city.

"This temporary checkpoint prevented a heavier catastrophe," he added.

Deputy Palestinian Prime Minister Nabil Shaath condemned the attack and said it was particularly tragic that Palestinians had been killed.

"We want such operations stopped," he told Reuters.

At least five other Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers were wounded by the blast.

Retaliation

In November, an Islamic Jihad militant killed five people in the Israeli city of Netanya in a suicide bombing. The bomber was from a village close to Tulkarm.

Map showing Tulkarm and Netanya

The town is a stronghold of Islamic Jihad, which has never agreed to an informal truce with Israel observed my the main Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Islamic Jihad's military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, said on Thursday it would not "stand by with folded arms" over Israel's shelling of a newly-declared buffer zone in northern Gaza, soon after warning Palestinians they could be shot if they entered it.

The 2.4 km (1.5 mile) buffer area is designed to stop rocket attacks against southern Israel by militants.

"We declare that our retaliation will take place in the centre of Zion; we will not stand weakly in front of the enemy's war machine, and we will remain alert in facing the enemy," a statement by the group said.

The BBC's correspondent in Jerusalem, Dan Damon, says Palestinian and Israeli government security officials have warned that in the run-up to Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, and with nightly exchanges of fire between Israeli units and Palestinian militants across the border in Gaza, an increase in suicide bomb attempts is likely.


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