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Bomber kills three at Israeli mall

Israeli troops close off West Bank and Gaza

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli troops closed off the West Bank and Gaza late Tuesday after a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at a mall in the coastal city of Netanya, killing three Israelis, military officials said.

An Israeli military spokesman told CNN the closure would remain in effect until further notice.

The violence continued early Wednesday, when two Palestinian policemen were killed by Israeli forces in Tulkarem, Palestinian sources said.

Israeli military sources said that in response to the Netanya bombing, an Israeli force went into Tulkarem in an attempt to arrest Islamic Jihad militants believed responsible for the bombing and other attacks against Israelis. At least one Palestinian was killed and two Israelis wounded after armed Palestinians opened fire and the Israelis fired back, the sources said.

Sources within the militant group Islamic Jihad told CNN they were responsible for the Netanya blast, and that the bomber was from the West Bank village of Atil.

The group dedicates itself to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel.

The attack happened during the evening rush hour on a pedestrian crosswalk at 6:45 p.m. (11:45 a.m. ET).

More than 30 ambulances reached the center of Netanya within 12 minutes of the explosion, said Azi Zohar of Israel Emergency Services.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said Palestinians condemned the attack.

"We believe whoever carried it out aims to sabotage the efforts being exerted to revive the peace process and to have a smooth and peaceful disengagement from Gaza," Erakat told CNN.

But Ra'anan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said the blast underscored "one simple lesson" about how to deal with terrorism.

"With terrorists, you don't talk, you don't sign deals," he told a reporter. "With terrorists, you fight."

In a statement from New York a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said "he is unwavering in his conviction that nothing can justify terror."

"Now and in the days ahead, it is critical that all measures be taken to ensure that such attacks do not reoccur, and that the admirable restraint recently observed be maintained so that the violence does not escalate," the statement said.

In Washington the White House too condemned the attack.

"Terrorists are seeking to derail the peace efforts in the Middle East, and all parties must step forward to combat terrorism," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters. "The Palestinian Authority needs to act to dismantle terrorist organizations and to stop attacks from happening in the first place."

State Department spokesman Tom Casey called the bombing "another example of violence being perpetrated by those who oppose peace and who have nothing but a rejectionist agenda to sell."

He added, "It's all the more reason why our focus has to be and has to continue to be on helping the Israelis and the Palestinians move forward on the road map and helping them deal with the challenges that are out there."

Netanya is north of Tel Aviv and only a few miles from the West Bank. It's been the target of a number of suicide bombings and attacks in the past. One of the worst is known as the Passover suicide blast, which happened March 27, 2002.

In that incident a suicide bomber walked into the seaside Park Hotel and made his way toward a dining room, where police say 227 people were eating their Seder meal. Twenty-nine of them died and more than 150 were wounded

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this story

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