Haifa bus bombing attack: At least 15 people killed; Sharon convenes security cabinet
A huge blast, caused by a suicide bomber, took place Wednesday afternoon in a bus at the northern port city of Haifa. Aat least 15 people were killed. Scores of people were wounded.
The police said the explosion went off on bus no. 37 on a main street. "The scenes are horrific here, twisted metal, it is very difficult to look at," one witness said. Another eyewitness said "The center of the bus lifted up into the air, the roof was torn off. It looked like a blast inside the bus, and within seconds people began taking the wounded out of the bus."
Haifa police chief told Army Radio that the explosion was caused by a Palestinian suicide bomber. Israeli public TV reported that police estimated the bomber was wearing an explosive belt weighing some 50 kilograms.
Israel Radio reported that police were also probing the possibility that the explosion was caused by a bomb that had been left on the bus, rather than a suicide bomber.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened the security cabinet at 2200 (1900GMT) Wednesday, to discuss Israel's response to the attack, the first after a two-month lull.
Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a spokesman for Hamas, praised the attack. "We will not stop our resistance," he said. "We are not going to give up in the face of the daily killing" of Palestinians.
Israeli security sources said Wednesday evening that the attack was apparently carried out by a Hamas activist from the West Bank city of Hebron.
Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat condemned "any attack that is targeting civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli." But he added: "We reject the Israel government finger-pointing that the Palestinian Authority is responsible."
The Palestinian Authority also condemned the attack in a written statement released Wendesday afternoon.
"The leadership announces its condemnation to this operation in which civilians, who are not part of the war of annihilation waged by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people, were killed," the statement said.
David Baker, an Israeli official said that, "The attack in Haifa is yet another Palestinian bloodletting of innocent Israeli civilians. Israel will not tolerate this terror, and will continue to take the necessary steps to eradicate it."
U.S. President George W. Bush denounced the suicide attack, saying "terrorists" would not prevail in the region.
"The president condemns in the strongest terms today's attack on innocents in Israel," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
"The message to the terrorists is their efforts will not be successful. We will continue to pursue the path of peace in the Middle East, and he [Bush] urges all to condemn today's attack," Fleischer said.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he "utterly condemns" the bombing, which he described as a "terrorist attack."
United Nations Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen condemned the attack as "a horrible act of terrorism." He told Israel Radio that the only way to characterize the attack was as "a cynical act of pre-mediated murder and nothing else," which served "no political purpose."
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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