A Palestinian bomber has blown himself up in the crowded central bus station of the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, wounding at least 10 people.
"A suicide bomber blew himself up on the street before he could get on a bus," police spokesman Avi Zelba said of Sunday morning's attack.
"At least 10 people were wounded, two of them seriously."
Police said the bomber apparently tried to board a bus outside the station during the morning rush hour at the start of the Israeli work week.
But he drew the driver's suspicion and blew himself up as security guards gave chase.
"The driver signalled two security guards to go to him," Uri Barlev, the police chief for southern Israel, told Army Radio.
"These two security guards ultimately prevented an attack that could have been a lot worse."
The Palestinian groups Al-Aqsa Al-Martyrs Brigades linked to Fatah and Al-Quds Brigades of Islamic Jihad jointly claimed the bombing in an anonymous telephone call to AFP.
"This attack was carried out in the name of Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds Brigades by Alaa Zaakik, 25, from Beit Omar," which is between Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank, the caller said.
"This bombing ... is another indication that the Palestinian Authority must take proper steps against terror"
David Baker, official in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office
A spokesman for the Egged bus company said the body of the bomber lay on the street in Beersheba's central bus station.
Rescue workers said the wounded were all taken to hospitals in the city.
The bombing is the first since Israel began its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip earlier in the month.
"Israel has taken the necessary steps to further the prospects of peace with the Palestinians," said David Baker, an official in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office.
"This bombing ... is another indication that the Palestinian Authority must take proper steps against terror, and without these steps, there will be no progress between both sides."
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erikat hit out at the attack.
"We condemn this attack and call upon all to make a maximum effort in order to maintain the truce and quiet," he said.
"Violence will bring more violence, and what Israelis and Palestinians need today is more peace and not violence."
There has been a lull in attacks since Israel and the Palestinians declared a truce in February.
But the blast comes three days after Israeli troops killed five Palestinians in a raid on a resistance hideout in the West Bank city of Tulkarim, drawing a vow of revenge from the Islamic Jihad group.