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Teen suicide bomber kills two ahead of high holy days

A teenage Palestinian suicide bomber slipped through a tight net of Israeli security set up for the Jewish high holy days and blew herself up at a busy intersection on the edge of Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing two Israeli police officers.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised to strike hard at Palestinian militants in the wake of the bombing, which injured nearly two dozen people and left broken glass and bloodied scraps of flesh and clothing across a boulevard in the district of French Hill.

The neighborhood, at the northern entrance to Jerusalem, has been the scene of several attacks during nearly four years of the current conflict.

Israel's security establishment was clearly rattled by the attack, which came at a time the West Bank and Gaza Strip are supposed to be virtually sealed off.

Israel closed the Palestinian territories last week in advance of the Jewish New Year holiday, and that closure is to remain in force through Yom Kippur, the most solemn observance of the Jewish year. It begins at sundown Friday and lasts until sundown Saturday.

Sharon, who was being interviewed on Israeli television moments after the midafternoon bombing, was visibly angered.

"In many cases, we prevent grievous disasters _ sometimes things happen, as they did today," the prime minister said. "But we intend to continue our struggle against terror with all force."

Wednesday's attack was the second suicide bombing inside Israel in just over three weeks.

Until a dual attack in the Negev desert town of Beersheba on Aug. 31 killed 16 passengers aboard two buses, Israelis had had a six-month respite from such attacks.

Sharon and other Israeli officials have for months been making threats against Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and the prime minister had explicitly underscored those warnings in an interview hours before the latest bombing.

Palestinian officials condemned Wednesday's bombing. But in line with usual practice, they coupled their criticism with a denunciation of Israel's tactics in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a Palestinian militia associated with Arafat's Fatah movement, took responsibility for the bombing, saying it was carried out in response to Israel's assassination last week of one of the group's senior leaders in the northern West Bank.

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