A suicide bomber blew himself up among a group of teens near a shopping mall in the seaside city of Netanya on Tuesday, killing himself and two women in the second such attack since a truce was declared five months ago.
About 30 people were wounded, three seriously, police said. Bloodied clothes were strewn on the asphalt, and the body of a woman was sprawled in the street.
Doron Shafir, one of the first paramedics at the scene, said he saw a woman whose clothes were on fire. "Another, her handbag was burning. We stepped on it to put it out. She was just sitting there. She did not know what was happening to her," he said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though Israeli police identified the bomber as an 18-year-old member of the militant Islamic Jihad group. Police said the bomber was from the West Bank village of Atil, about eight miles east of Netanya.
The last bombing, on Feb. 25, was carried out by Islamic Jihad. However, the group said in a statement after Tuesday's attack that it remained committed to the cease-fire. Islamic Jihad has said that despite the truce, it reserves the right to retaliate for what it perceives as Israeli violations, such arrests of Islamic Jihad members.
In response to the bombing, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz canceled a meeting, initially set for later Tuesday, to discuss the summer's Gaza withdrawal with a Palestinian Cabinet and a U.S. envoy. Instead, Mofaz convened army commanders.
Despite the attack, it was unlikely that the truce would collapse. Both sides have an interest in not walking away from their agreement. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon needs to maintain calm to carry out his Gaza withdrawal this summer, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' political survival depends on keeping the cease-fire alive.
David Baker, an official in Sharon's office, said Abbas was not doing enough to rein in militants.
The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, condemned the bombing.
"We understand that those who carried out this attack want to sabotage the efforts being exerted to have a smooth and peaceful disengagement from Gaza and a revival of the peace process," he said. However, he did not threaten to end the cease-fire.
Tuesday's blast went off shortly before 7 p.m. at a crosswalk outside the Sharon Mall in Netanyahu. Police said a preliminary investigation indicated that the bomber blew himself up among a group of teens. A police officer at the scene said both of the Israeli dead were women.