An explosion ripped through an Israeli bus in Jerusalem on Thursday morning. According to reports, the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber.
At least 11 people were killed and dozens were injured. Eight people were seriously injured in the attack, and over 40 casualties were taken to hospitals.
Hamas claimed responsibility of the attack. The bomber was identified as Nael Azmi Abu Halail, 23, a supporter of the Islamic Jihad group. Abu Halail's family said he left home Wednesday and had not returned.
The was from the village of Dura, south of Mount Hebron. According to an initial investigation, it appears he arrived in Jerusalem via Bethlehem, where he stayed over the last two months.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's adviser, Raanan Gissin, confirmed that the suicide bomber was from Bethlehem. Israeli troops Thursday afternoon arrested the father and brother of the suicide bomber.
Sharon convened his security cabinet for an emergency session Thursday to discuss Israel's response to the attack. A senior security official told Israel's Army Radio on Thursday that if reports that the suicide bomber came from Bethlehem were correct, the army will operate in this West Bank city.
Ghassan Khatib, the Palestinian labor minister, held Israel responsible, saying Sharon's strikes against Palestinian groups provoked more attacks. "Sharon and his policies are responsible for the continuation of violence," he said.
US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem.
The two leaders met during the NATO summit in Prague. Bush said he was "greatly disturbed" by the violence.
"It is clear that those who want to use terror to stop any prospect for peace are still active," Bush said. He said "all countries in the region ... must do their best to fight terror."
It remains the United State's goal to see two independent states -Israel and Palestine - living side-by-side in peace, Bush said. "We will continue to work with those who share that vision," he said.
Blair said, "Our thoughts are obviously with the victims of the latest terrorist outrage in Israel."
A leader of Hamas said attacks on Israelis would continue to force an end to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ismail Abu Shanab said that "the Palestinian people are determined to continue the resistance until we liberate our land."
David Baker, an official in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office, condemned the attack. "Palestinian terrorists continue to cling to the bloodshed agenda and they are satisfied only when innocent Israeli lives are taken," Baker told The Associated Press.
"It was a bus travelling from Kiryat Menachem to the centre of the city. Apparently a suicide bomber got on the bus, we don't know when, and exploded himself," Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy told Israel Radio.
"As a result there are dozens of wounded and a few dead," he said. "The bus was full."
A Palestinian youth was killed in Nablus by Israeli fire Thursday afternoon. Also Thursday, Israeli troops arrested two Hamas activists in Bethlehem.
Dozens of Israeli tanks entered three villages in southern Gaza early Thursday, residents said, and destroyed the house of a Palestinian activist. Doctors at a clinic said four people were moderately wounded by Israeli gunfire.
The villages, in southern Gaza near Israel, are known as strongholds of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the local Popular Resistance Front.
Residents said soldiers surrounded the house of a DFLP member, ordered the family out and knocked down the structure with bulldozers, AP reported.
Witnesses said there were exchanges of fire between Palestinians and soldiers and a large explosion next to an Israeli tank, apparently a bomb planted by Palestinians.
The villages are about 10 kilometers east of the city of Khan Younis.
Overnight Wednesday, Israeli troops moved into the Balata refugee camp near Nablus and destroyed the house of Osama Adel Ahmed, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who carried out a suicide bombing in Netanya about six months ago, which killed three and wounded 50.(Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )