DIMONA, Israel (Reuters) – A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up and police shot dead his accomplice in an attack in a shopping centre in southern Israel on Monday that killed at least one Israeli, emergency services said.
The suicide bombing in Dimona, a desert town where a top-secret nuclear reactor is located, was the first in Israel in a year.
A source in the Palestinian Fatah faction said the “Army of Palestine” wing of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades carried out the attack along with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Two Palestinian militant groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, praised the attack as a blow against “Israeli occupation.”
Police said the suicide bomber blew himself up in Dimona’s busy commercial centre in the morning, killing himself and another person, who was identified by the Magen David Adom ambulance service as an Israeli.
Yossi Porianta, the police chief in Israel’s southern Negev region, said a second attacker was killed when police shot him in the head before he could detonate his explosives belt.
Magen David Adom said another 10 people were wounded.
“We heard a big explosion, and people began running,” a shopowner who gave her name as Ravital told the radio. “I saw pieces of flesh flying in the air.”
The explosion raised speculation in Israel that a Palestinian militant from the Gaza Strip had infiltrated from nearby Egypt after Hamas Islamists blasted open the territory’s border at Rafah late last month.
Egypt has since sealed the breach.
“One of the concerns … was that hardcore terrorists would be filtering down out of Gaza and coming back into Israel through the (Egyptian-Israeli) border,” an Israeli government official said.
“What we are seeing today could well be the direct result of the anarchy we saw on the border with Gaza last week. But we’re not sure yet,” the official said.
The attack occurred several weeks after Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks opposed by Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
A Palestinian suicide bomber last struck in Israel on January 29, 2007, killing three people in the southern resort town of Eilat, on the Red Sea.