The leading Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas welcomed Monday's bomb attack against an Israeli school bus for Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip, because it represented a turn to arms in the seven-week Palestinian uprising.
"What happened was a qualitative development of the Intifada and (Hamas spiritual leader) Sheikh Ahmed Yassin spoke of this development to make the Intifada become a popular and armed Intifada," senior Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab told AFP.
"The Intifada has recently taken a turn towards arms and this development is positive and the correct response to Israeli military aggressions," he added.
Two adults were killed and nine other people were wounded in Monday's attack, including five children, when a bomb was detonated near a bus traveling from the Kafr Darom Jewish settlement in the central Gaza Strip.
"We hold Israel responsible for whatever happens because of its aggression against the Palestinian people," said Abu Shanab.
"Israel must know that our people will not stand with their hands tied to confront the aggression and our people are committed to kick out the occupation," he added.
"The area of Kafr Darom is a military area and an area of war. The settlers provoke the feelings of the Palestinian people. The presence of the settlers is responsible for what happens to them," Abu Shanab said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak convened his security cabinet after the bomb attack amid calls from government ministers to hit back at the Palestinians.
Israel deployed some 10 navy boats to the Gaza coast and artillery to the Karni crossing point, witnesses said.
Hamas, apparently fearing their waterfront headquarters in Gaza City could be a target for reprisal attacks, evacuated the building, witnesses said.
Witnesses said Hamas emptied their office of files and computers and locked the doors.
Three radical Palestinian groups have claimed responsibly for Monday's attack which Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said was connected to the "Palestinian military establishment."
Sneh said he did not hold Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat personally responsible -- GAZA CITY (AFP)
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