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Continuing Mideast Violence Kills 2 Palestinians, 1 Israeli - 2002-02-09

At least two Palestinians and an Israeli woman are dead as a result of continuing violence in the Middle East.

Israeli police say the Palestinians were killed when their car exploded in northern Israel, close to the West Bank.

Police say the Palestinians were carrying a bomb that apparently exploded prematurely. And, they say, the explosion was so powerful that it was difficult to identify the make of the car from the charred remains.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli woman died after she was stabbed as she was strolling along a promenade between Jewish and Arab neighborhoods in the city.

Police chased masked Palestinians who were seen running from the scene of the stabbing. One of them collapsed and died after being arrested.

Another suspect was shot and wounded during the pursuit, and police say they found bloodstained knives in his possession.

Earlier, Israeli tanks and troops moved into several Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank arresting Palestinian militants.

Soldiers launched a raid into the village of Tamoun, which is close to the Jewish settlement of Hamra, where earlier this week a Palestinian militant killed a soldier, a woman and her disabled daughter before being shot dead.

The army says the purpose of the incursion was to "hit terrorists and terrorist infrastructure."

Israeli forces also occupied a building in Nablus, saying the siege on the West Bank city was being tightened because "it has become a focus of terrorism."

Soldiers also arrested Palestinians in Hebron and near Ramallah. The army says the soldiers are members of the militant Islamic Jihad and Hamas groups.

Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner said the incursions by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were necessary to defend the Jewish state. "The IDF action in Hebron, in Nablus, in Bethlehem and everywhere else is part and parcel of our fight against terrorism," he said. "As you know the terrorist organizations have started a concerted effort in order to hit Israel. It is our right to defend ourselves and we will do so."

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the Israeli operations, saying they are part "of the continuing Israeli aggression to destroy the peace process and to destroy the Palestinian Authority."

Meanwhile, near an Israeli checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, a Palestinian man was killed in an explosion.

Relatives in Bethlehem say the man was carrying out a suicide bombing, although no one else was hurt in the blast.