Israel: soldiers thwart Palestinian suicide attack

Rival Palestinian factions, meanwhile, held a second day of talks meant to head off a national referendum on whether to accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

And in Malaysia, Palestinian feuding spilled onto the global stage as the foreign minister of the militantly anti-Israel Hamas-led government boycotted a meeting of the Nonaligned Movement to protest the attendance of a rival politician.

Israeli security forces were tipped off late Sunday that militants in the area of the West Bank town of Nablus were planning an attack in Israel, said Lt. Col. Arik Chen, a battalion commander in the region.

Around daybreak, soldiers spotted two militants near Nablus carrying a suspicious bag and ordered them to approach for a routine inspection, Chen said.

The militants threw away the bag, then led troops on a three-hour chase until they were cornered and gave themselves up, he said. The men surrendered only after troops fired in the airm the AP reports.

Inside the bag, soldiers found a bomb weighing seven kilograms (15 pounds), packed with nails and pieces of small metal, which heighten the deadly effect, Chen said. Sappers later blew it up.

The militants were taken into custody, and in initial questioning, they admitted they planned to blow themselves up in Israel, but did not say where, the military said. They belonged to a cell of activists from the Islamic Jihad, Fatah and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine militant groups, it said.

Also Monday, Palestinians said a Hamas member of parliament, Mohammed Abu Khreishe, was released from an Israeli prison after serving a year. Abu Khreishe, from the Hebron area, was elected to parliament while in prison. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

On the political front, Palestinian factions entered their second day of talks on a proposal that would implicitly recognize Israel's right to exist, and could relieve crippling economic sanctions imposed by the West and Israel after Hamas won Jan. 25 parliamentary elections.

The United States and European Union demand the Islamic militant group renounce violence and recognize Israel if it wants aid restored, but Hamas has refused, the AP reports.

Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas lawmaker, said Hamas' representative to the talks was unable to reach the meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah for a second straight day because of Israeli roadblocks.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command have asked to have the talks moved to Gaza because of the travel restrictions, al-Masri said.