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Palestinian Suicide Bombing Kills 5 in Afula - 2003-05-19

A Palestinian suicide bomber has killed at least four people and injured around 30 others. The bomber also died in the blast in the northern Israeli town of Afula.

The bomber set off the explosion at the entrance to a shopping mall, after being blocked by security guards and shoppers standing in line.

Israeli police sealed off the area and all the wounded have been taken to hospitals.

The militant Palestinian group, Islamic Jihad, an organization dedicated to Israel's destruction, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The bombing came despite a stringent closure imposed by Israel on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Mayor of Afula, Yitzhak Meron, said the attack might have been prevented with the completion of a security fence around the West Bank. He urged the Government to speed up the development of the barrier, which is now under construction, in a bid to prevent Palestinian attackers from crossing into Israel.

The bombing in Afula was the fifth such attack in the past three days.

Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, another organization that has vowed to destroy the Jewish State, has been linked to the first four bombings.

Earlier Monday, another Palestinian riding a bicycle blew himself up alongside a military jeep in the Gaza Strip, wounding three soldiers.

On Sunday, at least seven Israelis were killed on a commuter bus by a Palestinian suicide bomber.

Amid the wave of attacks, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, postponed a planned trip to Washington. He was to have met President Bush at the White House to discuss the international road-map to peace plan.

The plan is supported by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

It calls for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

The Palestinian leadership has endorsed the road map but Israel has reservations and plans to ask for changes to the plan.