Sunday, October 27, 2002

Bomber Kills Israelis; Troops Shoot Militants
A Palestinian suicide bomber attacked a Jewish settlement Sunday, killing three Israeli officers and wounding 20 other people.

The Palestinian was punched, kicked and shot by bystanders but managed to detonate the bomb he was carrying before he died. The Israeli army said the soldiers and civilians had managed to prevent heavier casualties.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group linked to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for the blast at a petrol station at Ariel, one of the biggest Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

There are some 145 Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in what the international community regards as a violation of international law, a position Israel disputes.

``I saw the gas station manager and his worker had spotted the terrorist and then they grabbed him,'' witness Yehiel Hazan told Israel Radio at Ariel, 15 miles east of Tel Aviv and home to some 17,000 settlers.

Shahar Keshet, a motorist who stopped for petrol, said he ran from his car with his pistol and approached the Palestinian.

``We started to punch and kick him in the head. But he didn't lose consciousness,'' Keshet told Israel's Channel Two television.

One of those grappling with the Palestinian shouted, ``I see an explosives belt,'' and Keshet said: ``I put a bullet or two in (the bomber's) head without a second thought.''

Police officers at the scene said soldiers and another bystander also shot at the Palestinian, who managed to trigger the explosives before dying. But Channel Two said police were investigating whether the gunfire had detonated the bomb.