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The suicide bomber struck in the open air market in the coastal city of Hadera a little before 4 P.M. Wednesday afternoon, killing five people and wounding some 55 others, five seriously.

Mofaz spoke briefly to reporters upon his return from a meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He said he briefed Mubarak on intelligence projections regarding possible terror attacks.

"To my regret, the projections came true. We will do everything we can to strike out at the infrastructure of the organization that carried out this act of terror," Mofaz said.

The explosion occurred in front of a felafel stand at the entance to the market in downtown Hadera, a city that has been a frequent target of attacks during the past five years of violence.

Islamic Jihad said the bombing was retaliation for the death of its military leader, Luay Sa'adi, in an IDF raid in the West Bank several days ago.

Wednesday also marked the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Islamic Jihad chief Fathi Shekaki outside a Malta hotel in a mission widely attributed to Israel.

"It is a natural retaliation for the Israeli crimes committed against our people, namely the crime against Luay Sa'adi," Islamic Jihad spokesman Khader Habib told the AP. "The Islamic Jihad movement was committed to the truce, and is still committed to the truce, but this truce should be mutual. We cannot tolerate a one-sided truce."

Military sources, however, were quick to point out that a bomb attack of this magnitude took longer than three days to plan.

The suicide bomber who carried out the attack was identified as a 20-year-old resident of the West Bank town of Qabatiyeh. The bomber's name, Hassan Abu Zeid, was announced over a bullhorn in Qabatiyeh, residents said. Israel Radio reported he was released about one month ago from Israeli prison.

A number of stalls were demolished in the explosion, the radio said. Some of the wounded received treatment on a nearby playing field.

Magen David Adom ambulances evacuated the wounded to Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center in Hadera; Laniado Hospital in Netanya and Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava.

"We are talking about a serious attack, and the number of wounded is relatively high, and the last of the wounded are being evacuated at this time," said Yeruham Mendola, a spokesman for Magen David Adom.

Dr. Meir Oren, medical director at Hillel Yaffeh, told Israel Radio that 20 of the wounded had been admitted. Six of them were in serious condition and four were moderately wounded, he said.

It is the first bombing inside Israel since August 28, when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to Be'er Sheva's central bus station, wounding 20 people.

Israel blamed the attack on the Palestinian Authority's failure to crack down on militants.

IDF sappers searched the area around the site of the attack for additional bombs and roads out of the city were closed. In the immediate wake of the attack, police also boosted security in crowded public areas and on public transport.

Highway 4 between Hadera and Netanya has been sealed off, Israel Radio said. Security forces are also checking cars travelling from Tel Aviv in the direction of Modi'in on Highway 443.

Police said that there had not been specific intelligence of an attack in Hadera, but the number of officers had been increased following more general warnings.