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Israel arrests militants after suicide blast

Sharon closes access to Gaza settlements until after withdrawal

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli troops have arrested five members of Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in the West Bank city of Tulkarem after Tuesday's suicide attack in Netanya that killed four Israelis, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said Wednesday.

Israeli troops closed off the West Bank and Gaza late Tuesday and went into Tulkarem in what was called a "pinpoint arrest activity against Islamic Jihad."

The IDF said two gunmen opened fire on Israeli troops as they entered the city and the soldiers returned fire and shot them.

Palestinian sources said that the men shot by Israeli troops were Palestinian police and that they died of their wounds.

An Israeli military spokesman said the closure of the Palestinian territories would remain in effect until further notice.

On Wednesday, Israel also closed off access to Gaza settlements by nonresidents ahead of a planned march next week by activists to protest Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan.

Sharon announced plans last year to close 21 settlements and move about 8,000 Israelis from Gaza.

The closure will remain in effect until after the Gaza withdrawal, which is set for August, the prime minister's office said.

In shutting down access, the Israeli army closed Kissufim Crossing -- the only entrance to the main Gaza settlement block.

Meanwhile, two people -- a Swiss and Briton -- were kidnapped Wednesday by members of Fatah calling themselves Family Militia, witnesses at a refugee camp in Gaza said.

The kidnappers were demanding the release of relatives from a Palestinian Authority jail.

Four die in Netanya blast

In Netanya, the suicide bomber detonated his explosives on a pedestrian crosswalk at 6:45 p.m. (11:45 a.m. ET) Tuesday.

Sources within Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the blast, saying the bomber was from the West Bank village of Atil.

Three Israeli women were killed, and a fourth died of her wounds Wednesday. Ninety others also were wounded.

More than 30 ambulances reached the scene 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 said.

But Ra'anan Gissin, a spokesman for 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," Gissin said. "With terrorists, you fight."

Netanya, a coastal Israeli city north of Tel Aviv and a few miles from the West Bank, has been the target of a number of suicide bombings.

One of the worst, known as the Passover suicide blast, happened in March 2002 when a suicide bomber killed 29 people and injured more than 150 others in a hotel while people were eating their Seder meal.

CNN's Elise Labott and Shira Medding contributed to this report.

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