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Israeli forces enter Gaza, West Bank

Three Palestinians killed in IDF operations

Rescue workers inspect the area near a bombed bus after a suicide terror attack Thursday in Jerusalem.
Rescue workers inspect the area near a bombed bus after a suicide terror attack Thursday in Jerusalem.

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CNN's John Vause reports on the deadly suicide bombing aboard a bus in Jerusalem.
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A day after a suicide bomber killed 10 people in a terror attack on a Jerusalem bus, Israeli forces conducted operations Friday in the West Bank and Gaza, killing three Palestinians the Israeli army had identified as terrorists.

Israeli forces shot and killed a wanted Hamas operative in the West Bank town of Beit Awa, west of Hebron, an Israel Defense Forces representative said.

A Kalashnikov rifle was found in his possession after his death, according to the IDF.

In Gaza, IDF forces killed two Palestinians suspected of preparing an attack near the Israeli settlement of Dugit.

"An IDF force identified several armed men approaching the security fence surrounding the northern Gaza Strip communities in order to plant an explosive device against civilians and IDF targets in the area," an IDF statement said. "The force opened fire at the armed men and identified a hit."

Palestinian security forces said that two Palestinians died in a clash in the area.

According to an Israeli military spokeswoman, the armed men were carrying an explosive device and a rocket-propelled grenade when they were identified about 500 feet (150 meters) from a fence surrounding the settlement.

Israeli security forces also entered the West Bank town of Bethlehem early Friday, arresting several wanted Palestinians, the IDF said. The Israeli sweep included 15 to 20 armored vehicles, witnesses said.

The IDF said, "There is a vast amount of terror activity [in Bethlehem] despite the Palestinians' obligation to thwart terror activity."

The IDF also arrested a wanted Islamic Jihad operative in Silat-a-Hartiya northwest of Jenin, West Bank.

Thursday's suicide bombing in Jerusalem was carried out by a Bethlehem man, a Palestinian policeman who slipped onto a passenger bus to set off the blast, according to Israeli officials and Palestinian sources. (Full story)

The bomber also was killed in the attack, and at least 45 people were wounded.

Israeli officials said the terror attack proved the need for what Israel calls a "security fence," intended to block terrorists from entering the country.

World leaders condemned the latest suicide bombing.

"Once again, terrorists have killed innocent people, and at the same time they have struck a blow once more against the aspirations of the Palestinian people to have a homeland of their own," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said. "This kind of action has got to stop."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "Once again I appeal, to Israelis and Palestinians alike, to rise above feelings of anger and vengeance, however natural, and to devote all their energies to negotiating a true and lasting peace in which two peoples will live side by side, each in their own state."

The suicide attack drew an immediate condemnation from chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.

"We always condemn targeting of civilians -- Israeli or Palestinian." he said. "This cycle can only end through the resumption of a meaningful peace process."

The bombing occurred 8:45 a.m. local time in a neighborhood near Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's official residence. The Israeli leader was not at home at the time. Also nearby is Cafe Moment, where a suicide bomber killed 11 people and wounded dozens of others in March 2002.

Thursday's explosion tore apart bus No. 19, traveling from Jerusalem's Hadassa Ein Karem Hospital.

Palestinian security sources said the policeman, Ali Ja'ara, left a will with Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the militant offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. In the will, Ja'ara said his motive was to "avenge the massacres" Israel is carrying out in Gaza.

The U.S. State Department has designated Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as a foreign terrorist organization.

In other violence in the region, Israeli forces shot and killed eight Palestinians Wednesday, including at least three members of the Islamic Jihad, and wounded six others during a raid near Gaza City, Palestinian security and medical sources said. (Full story)

The IDF said its soldiers were returning fire toward Palestinians.

Sharon's adviser Dore Gold said Thursday's suicide attack had been planned for weeks and was not in response to the deadly Gaza raid.

Gold said the attack underscored the need for physical separation between Israel and the West Bank.

"Only the completion of Israel's security fence -- which some are trying to stop using the U.N. and the International Court of Justice -- will finally provide security for Israelis against these kinds of attacks," he said.

Next month, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, will debate the legality of the barrier, which Palestinians call a wall and believe is an Israeli attempt at a land grab.

The suicide bombing came as Israel and the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah conducted a historic prisoner exchange Thursday after years of secret negotiations. (Full story)

The attack did not affect the Israel-Hezbollah prisoner swap, which took place in the West Bank, Gaza, and at an airfield in Cologne, Germany. As part of the exchange, Israel released two top Hezbollah leaders and more than 400 other prisoners. In return, Hezbollah released an Israeli businessman and the remains of three Israeli soldiers.

CNN's Matthew Chance and John Vause contributed to this report.


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