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Israeli police said the suicide bomber walked into the crowded pedestrian mall. Israeli TV and CNN reported that at least three Israelis were killed in the attack.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed group linked to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack.
“Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades carried out a heroic martyrdom attack in the settlement of Rishon Letzion north of Tel Aviv,” said a statement faxed by the group to Reuters in Beirut.
“We swear we shall avenge the blood of innocent martyrs and there shall be more martyrdom operations.”
David Baker, an official in the Israeli prime minister’s office, told reporters, “Israel will not buckle under in the face of terror and we will use whatever measures are needed to root it out.”
Rishon Letzion was the scene of another attack earlier this month. On May 7, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a pool hall, killing 15 Israelis and himself.
Earlier in the day, Israeli forces launched a missile attack that killed three members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, including a local leader, Palestinian sources said.
Mahmoud Titi and two others were in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus. A resident of the camp was also killed, Palestinian security and medical sources said.
In January, the killing of Raed al-Karmi, a senior al-Aqsa brigades leader, sparked a wave of revenge shooting and bombings.
An Israeli military source confirmed Israeli forces had killed Titi, whom they described as a senior “terrorist” wanted by Israel for a number of attacks against its civilians, including the shooting at banquet hall in the town of Hadera in January that killed six Israelis.
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