Palestinian suicide bomber kills Israeli soldier

A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up when Israeli soldiers tried to search him at a roadblock in the occupied West Bank on Thursday and rescuers said an Israeli was killed.A passenger who had unknowingly shared the same taxi as the bomber said soldiers stopped the car at an impromptu roadblock and asked young men to get out.

"The man got out slowly, closed his jacket and blew himself up," said Nafez Shahin, 48.A military source said the roadblock had been set up in response to intelligence warnings that a bomber was on his way to Israel.Israel's Zaka rescue service said an Israeli was killed.

Medics said six Palestinians and two other Israelis were wounded. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.The bombing was a blow to a shaky 10-month-old truce by militants that is due to expire on Saturday, the last day of the year. Growing violence has put peacemaking hopes on hold and could influence forthcoming elections on both sides.

A Palestinian suicide bomber last struck on December 6, killing five Israelis at a shopping mall in the coastal city of Netanya.Palestinian militant groups have vowed to carry out suicide bombings to avenge Israeli raids in the West Bank and strikes into the Gaza Strip. Israel says those actions target militants planning or on the way to carry out attacks.

Israel shelled the Gaza Strip on Thursday to enforce a new "no-go zone" designed to prevent militants firing rockets from the Gaza Strip, from which Israeli troops withdrew three months ago after 38 years of occupation.

Optimism that the pullout would be a step to reviving talks on Palestinian statehood has shrunk, while both Israelis and Palestinians are busy preparing for elections early next year that could reshape the landscape for peacemaking.Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is battling to win a third term against rightist opponents who condemn his widely popular withdrawal from Gaza, saying it effectively rewarded Palestinians for their uprising and would encourage more attacks.

Israel said on Thursday that it would continue shelling and air strikes to enforce a "no-go zone" in the Gaza Strip as long as it takes to stop Palestinian militants firing rockets.

Palestinians condemned the buffer zone as a re-occupation of land evacuated by Israel this year and said police would remain deployed in the area despite Israeli requests that they leave for their own safety."The Israeli determination to implement this plan will widen the cycle of the conflict and will not achieve the goals which Israeli occupation forces seek to achieve," the Palestinian Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Any major surge of bloodshed could also complicate Palestinian parliamentary elections in January and even force a delay.Earlier this week, Abbas tried to get militant leaders in Gaza to agree to halt the cross-border rocket fire and renew a pledge to follow a cease-fire that brought 10 months of relative calm, reports Reuters. I.L.

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