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Bomber's relatives angered by militants

NABLUS, West Bank -- Before dawn, Iyad al-Masri strapped on a belt filed with explosives yesterday and left this city -- apparently intent on carrying out an attack on Israelis. A few hours later, his belt malfunctioned and exploded, killing him.

Masri, 17, had been throwing stones at Israeli soldiers since he was 10 years old, but the slaying of his brother and cousin by troops last week pushed him to take this drastic step, said his father, Bilal al-Masri.

Other relatives gathered at the family home bitterly blamed Palestinian militant groups for inspiring young people to kill others and themselves.

"Those who sent him are godless. His brother and cousin were just killed," said Yasser al-Masri, a cousin. "How can we have three dead in the family in one week?"

Masri's father said he thought his son had gone to work as usual until Al-Manar, a television station run by the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group, named him as the bomber who died when his bomb exploded prematurely.

The television station said the Islamic Jihad had sent the teenager, but Nablus members of the group denied that.

In 39 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence, more than 400 Israelis have been killed in 107 Palestinian suicide bombings. The last suicide attack was Dec. 25, when four Israelis were killed near Tel Aviv.

Israeli forces shot and killed Masri's brother, Amjad, 15, nine days ago while he was on the roof of his Nablus house, relatives said. The army said he was dropping cinder blocks on troops, but witnesses said he was just watching the soldiers pass by.

Hours later, during the funerals for Amjad and two others killed in clashes that day, the army opened fire on the procession, killing Mohammed al-Masri, a cousin.

The events had a terrible impact on Iyad, who was standing next to Mohammed when he was shot, said the father. "Mohammed was shot in the head, his brains sprayed all over [Iyad]. Later, he found pieces in his hat," he said.

Bilal said he was not surprised his son would want to carry out an attack. "He would always go and throw stones at the soldiers. He was hit by rubber bullets seven times. It was easy to get him angry, to say `OK, lets go.' "

For Masri's mother, Abir, the loss of a second son in eight days was too much to bear. As neighbors and family members descended, wailing, on the family house to mourn again, she sat silent and unresponsive in a corner, unable to talk or cry.

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