At least seven people have been killed in central Israel by a suspected Palestinian suicide bomber. More than a dozen have been injured in the blast outside an army base in Rishon Lezion.
Israeli soldiers are reported to be the main victims of the explosion. The soldiers were standing at a crowded bus stop adjacent to the Tzfrin military base in central Israel.
Israeli police rushed to the site and evacuated bystanders for fear additional explosive devices may have been planted at the scene. The police also chased a vehicle spotted fleeing from the area shortly after the attack.
Emergency rescue workers identified one body as that of the bomber.
David Baker, an official in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, condemned the Palestinian Authority for failing to prevent the attack. He said the bombing shows that the Palestinian leadership is doing nothing to rein in terrorists or to dismantle what he called the terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel had been on high alert for such an attack since Saturday, when Israeli forces made a failed attempt to assassinate the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and other members of the organization in Gaza City.
Hamas, one of the main Palestinian groups that frequently carries out suicide bombings, vowed to launch a campaign of revenge attacks. Hamas is on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations.
In a separate development Tuesday, Israeli forces killed three Palestinians in a hunt for Hamas militants in the West Bank city of Hebron. One of them was reported to a leader of the military wing of Hamas.
He was killed along with two others during a gun-battle, after Israeli forces stormed an apartment building in Hebron.
Shortly before the raid, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy was killed when an Israeli tank fired a shell at the building, suspected to be the hideout of Hamas activists.