Mon, Feb 23, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Jerusalem bomber kills seven

MARTYRED A huge explosion on a crowded bus scattered body parts across a two-block radius, a day before the world court is to begin hearings on Israel's separation barrier

AP , JERUSALEM

Israeli rescue workers search the wreckage of a destroyed bus following an explosion in Jerusalem yesterday. An explosion tore through the crowded bus, killing seven people and wounding dozens of others.

PHOTO: REUTERS

A suicide bomber blew himself up on a crowded Jerusalem bus yesterday morning, killing seven people and wounding more than 60, 11 of them seriously, police and rescue workers said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came just a day before the world court is to begin hearings on the West Bank separation barrier Israel says is crucial for keeping out bombers.

The huge blast went off around 8:30am, during morning rush hour, as the bus drove past a gas station in downtown Jerusalem. The explosion ripped apart the back of the green bus and scattered body parts and shattered glass across a two-block radius. The windows were blown out, the windscreen cracked and the roof was raised.

"It was like an earthquake," Ora Yairov, who was at the gas station during the explosion, told Channel One television. "The station was filled with shattered glass and pieces of flesh."

An hour after the blast, bodies still lay on the sidewalk. Rescue workers wrapped them in white sheets and put body parts in body bags. Security forces stood on the roof of the nearby gas station watching the crowd.

Police spokesman Gil Kleiman said the blast killed seven people in addition to the bomber. Rescue officials said at least 60 people were injured.

The explosion came from a medium-sized bomb laced with pieces of iron that exploded in the center of the bus, police said.

Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have killed hundreds of Israelis in such bombings in more than three years of fighting.

Hamas had called all its bombers to avenge a Feb. 11 Israeli raid into the Gaza Strip that left 15 Palestinians dead. In a statement posted on a Hamas Web site, the group demanded Israelis leave all of Israel, "if not, they will face the same destiny of those Zionists who were attacked in the martyrdom operation in Jerusalem today."

Yesterday's bombing was the first since a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus near Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's house on Jan. 29, killing 10 passengers. The latest bombing was only a few blocks away from that blast.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia condemned the attack in a statement and called for "an immediate halt to these actions," which gives Israel an excuse for continuing building the barrier and carrying out raids against militants.

Israeli officials said the blast proved the need for the West Bank barrier, which is being challenged at the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

"We are showing everyone that a security fence is not just Israel's obligation, but also its right," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said. "We are letting the victims of terror speak for us at the Hague."

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