A suicide bomber blew himself up on a Jerusalem bus early yesterday, killing seven passengers and himself, police said. At least 20 others were wounded, four in serious condition, while a second bomber blew himself up on the outskirts of the city.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon postponed a trip to Washington for talks with US President George W. Bush on a peace plan after receiving news of the attacks.
The bus attack happened at an intersection at the northern edge of the city, police said. Five dead passengers were still in their seats in the front of the bus, one leaning out a window, an hour after the blast.
The bomber was dressed in a white prayer shawl and skull cap worn by observant Jews "to give the impression he was coming home from morning prayers," said police spokesman Gil Kleiman. Police Chief Mickey Levy said this was not the first time that suicide bombers have dressed as Jews in order to infiltrate Israel.
Police said the second bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the village of Dahiya el-Barid, near Jerusalem. Police said the bomber was killed in the blast on the highway, and no one else was hurt.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.
Sharon postponed his planned trip to Washington yesterday to meet with Bush after hearing of the attacks.
Yesterday's bombings were part of a sudden surge in Palestinian attacks -- four in 12 hours -- including a bombing in the West Bank city of Hebron on Saturday night in which a suicide bomber killed an Israeli man and his pregnant wife. Also, two armed Palestinians tried to attack a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and were killed by soldiers.
The attacks appeared to be timed to coincide with a summit meeting between Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday night to discuss a new peace plan. It was the first top-level meeting between the two sides in nearly three years.
In a statement after the meeting, Sharon said it was agreed that the first priority in peacemaking must be stopping Palestinian attacks.
The bus bomber struck at a few minutes before 6am yesterday morning, at the beginning of a rush hour on a work day in Israel. Witnesses said the bomb went off on a large bus divided into two sections as it neared a bridge in one of Jerusalem's largest intersections, outside the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat and the Jewish neighborhood of French Hill, in the part of Jerusalem Israel captured in the 1967 war and claimed by the Palestinians.
It was the first such attack in Jerusalem since last November. In 93 suicide attacks since the current violence erupted in September 2000, 357 bystanders have been killed. Most were carried out by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but recently the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, linked to the mainstream Fatah, have taken responsibility.