Fuad Jarwuan, 18, was fatally injured when Israeli soldiers aboard two jeeps opened fire to disperse a group of stone-throwing Palestinians in the village of Zeita, south of Nablus, they said.

Nine Palestinians have been killed in the Nablus area since 26 December, when Israeli occupation forces began an operation to round up wanted fighters.

Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation forces backed by more than 20 military vehicles raided the town of Yamoun, west of Jenin, early on on Sunday, Aljazeera's corrspondent reported.

Witnesses said the troops searched several houses in the Abahira neighbourhood of the town.

They were apparently looking for Ibrahim and Warad al-Abahira, who the occupation forces accuse of being part of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Bomber killed

A Palestinian bomber was killed on Sunday when his device went off prematurely near a settlement in the northern West Bank, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said.

Body parts could be seen scattered near the site of the explosion close to the settlement of Karnei Shomron, east of Qalqiliya.

"A Palestinian man exploded himself between the village (of Jinsafut) and the settlement," a Palestinian security source said.

An Israeli military source said: "It appears a bomber prematurely detonated himself", adding that there were no Israeli casualties.

Israeli threat

Israel will formally annexe parts of the occupied West Bank if Palestinian leaders declare independence, Health Minister Danny Naveh said on Sunday.

The Israeli ''security'' barrier has
become a major sticking point 

"Our message is clear: if the Palestinians unilaterally proclaim an independent state, Israel will annexe parts (of the West Bank) that it judges essential to its security," Naveh told public radio.

"The Palestinians are trying every trick in the book to avoid implementing the roadmap which demands that they put an end to terrorism," the minister added in reference to the peace plan drafted by an international quartet.

The Palestinian leadership said in a statement on Saturday it was mulling the possibility of unilaterally proclaiming an independent state on land occupied by Israel since 1967.

"The Palestinian leadership... believes it has the right under international law and signed accords to work towards the creation of a democratic state in all territories occupied in 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital," said the statement issued after a meeting chaired by Palestinian President Yasir Arafat.

The Palestinians have argued that Israel's continued settlement activity and building of a separation barrier which at times juts deep into the West Bank, is undermining the viability of a two-state settlement.