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At Least 3 People Killed Near Tel Aviv Suicide Bombing

A suspected Palestinian suicide bomber has killed at least three people at a bus stop outside Tel Aviv and wounded more than a dozen others. The attack came shortly after a separate incident in the Gaza Strip, in which a strike by an Israeli helicopter killed a senior Islamic militant and four others.

Witnesses say a suicide bomber set off the blast at a crowded bus stop on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

Two of the dead have been identified as Israeli women. Another victim, a man, died after being taken to a hospital.

The bomber also died in the blast.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attack. It issued a statement saying the bombing is in retaliation for an Israeli army raid last week into the West Bank city of Nablus.

The explosion occurred during the evening rush hour, when the street was packed with cars, and buses. Rescue workers reported difficulties in reaching the area because of heavy traffic. Israeli police blocked off nearby streets to enable survivors to be evacuated to nearby hospitals.

Police chased two people seen fleeing from the area and issued a high security alert.

The Israeli Army also imposed a full closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the wake of the attack.

The bombing was the first since an Oct. 4 Palestinian suicide bombing at a restaurant in the northern city of Haifa that killed 23 people.

The attack came shortly after missiles from an Israeli military helicopter killed a senior member of the Islamic Jihad, a group that frequently carries out suicide bombings against Israel. A military spokesman says the Islamic Jihad leader, who was not named, was responsible for the death of many Israelis. The military said the militant was planning another major attack.

Two other members of the organization and two bystanders were also reported killed in the Israeli air strike on a car traveling between Gaza City and a nearby Palestinian refugee camp.

In a Palestinian cabinet statement, Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia condemned Thursday's violence, expressing regret for, as he put it, "the continuation of the cycle of assassinations, liquidations and attacks against civilians on both sides." Mr. Qureia called for the conclusion of a reciprocal cease-fire.