BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK — Khaled Bdeir remembers joking around earlier this week with his younger brother. The 11th grader seemed normal, he said, not angry, not like someone who was hours away from killing.

Issa Bdeir, 16, detonated explosives Wednesday evening in the working class Israeli city of Rishon Letzion, just south of Tel Aviv. The powerful blast killed two Israelis and the suicide bomber — the youngest in the last 20 months of fighting.

"God willing, I will be a martyr."

Issa Bdeir, 16


The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Khaled Bdeir said his brother was a good student who liked to play soccer. At his home in Al Doha village on Friday, Khaled said he had no idea what young Issa was planning.

"I am shocked, I am surprised. ... I didn't think that he could reach the level to decide to blow himself up," Khaled said.

An uncle, Mahmoud Abu Odeh, 38, said the teen-ager was deeply affected by news of Palestinian children being killed by soldiers. Many of those children died while hurling rocks at soldiers. Others were caught in cross-fire.

Odeh remembered an ominous message written on the cover of one of the boy's school notebooks: "God willing, I will be a martyr." Palestinians refer to those who die in attacks as martyrs.

Unseen by his family, Issa prepared himself to die.

Like many suicide bombers, Issa delivered his final message in a home video.

In the video, the boy wears a a black and white scarf around his head and a backpack over his shoulders. Reading from a notebook, he says, "I am going to commit my operation to avenge the continuous Israeli aggression that is still committed against our people. Goodbye Mother, goodbye Father and goodbye to my family."

Then, he poses with a semi-automatic pistol and a revolver in each hand and slowly turns in a circle before walking eerily toward the camera.

Issa had short black hair, but dyed it blond, apparently so he might blend in with the Russian immigrants and young Israelis in Rishon Letzion. The city park he targeted is a place where young couples walk and elderly men gather to sip tea and play cards, dominoes and backgammon.

Perhaps no one noticed him. Or maybe it was too late. He blew himself up in the middle of two rows of wood tables. Blood and body parts flew up along with a debris of cards and dominoes. A teen-age boy and an elderly man were killed.