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16 Killed, 153 Wounded in Jerusalem Suicide Bombing

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem), & Ha'aretz

At least 16 people were killed in the suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus just before 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. At least 150 people were wounded in the explosion on Jaffa Street, a main thoroughfare. The blast tore apart the bus, as it was about to pull away from a stop where it had picked up passengers near the large Mahane Yehuda open-air market.

Jerusalem Police Chief Mickey Levy said that an Arab suicide bomber, dressed as a religious hareidi man, perpetrated the atrocity. He said the terrorist had boarded the bus, one block away from the site of the bombing.

The Hamas terrorist organization claimed responsibility for the attack. A Hamas spokesman announced that the bombing "is a message to all the Zionist criminals that they are not safe and that the Palestinian fighters are capable of reaching them everywhere."

Shortly after the blast, Israeli helicopters fired rockets at a car in Gaza City. Reports said at least seven Palestinians were killed, including two military leaders of Hamas. The Israeli attack came one day after Hamas vowed to avenge Israel's attempt to kill a senior Hamas official. Abdel Aziz-Rantissi was wounded on Tuesday when Israeli helicopters fired several missiles at his vehicle in Gaza City. One of his bodyguards and a Palestinian woman were killed, and about 25 other people were wounded.

Earlier Wednesday, Israel said it has intelligence proving Rantissi helped plan attacks on Israelis. Israeli officials said the evidence shows the attempt to kill Rantissi was justified, and not intended to sabotage the "road map" for peace in the Middle East.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is said to have told a cabinet meeting Wednesday that his government will make no concessions to terror. A government official quoted Sharon as saying Israel made this clear to U.S. and Palestinian officials at the recent peace summit in Jordan.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas called for Hamas and other groups to suspend their attacks to give negotiations with Israel a chance to succeed. He has also ruled out using force against Hamas, saying his only course of action would be dialogue.

VOA's Larry James, who was on the scene of the bloody bus bombing, described it this way: From where I am standing on Jaffa Road, I'm about 25 to 30 meters away from a red and white city bus that has the windows blown out of it, all of the windows. The left hand side of the bus, also, has a big explosion mark and in the very front of the bus, the roof is pulled back as though, perhaps, the explosion or a goodly part of it took place there, at the very entrance to the bus.

The area around here is completely surrounded by curious onlookers and, also, there are a number of rescue personnel who are here trying to retrieve some of the bodies from the vehicle still. We see body parts being loaded onto stretchers and carried off.

We have no firm figure on casualties, but the scene is one that has been repeated very many times in Israel in the past several years. In the neighborhood on the way over here, I walked through a part of the city that is a very old part with very narrow alleys and streets, and I encountered an Israeli patrol, armed patrol, knocking down doors of some of the houses on the way and looking very intently, as though they were checking to make sure that there were no other individuals in the area who were intent on terrorist acts.

Other eyewitnesses said: "The bus is totally destroyed; the roof is completely torn off. All the windows are blown out. Smoke is still coming out. Bodies are strewn all around. Unlike previous attacks in which one part of the bus was clearly more severely damaged than another, I am looking right at the bus and the entire bus is blown up. The whole bus is totally destroyed."

"I was around the corner when I heard the explosion. I ran to the scene and simply froze. My legs couldn't move," said Shirli Rafael, a 25-year-old municipal worker. "I saw dead people. Severed hands and fingers lay at my feet. I saw a lot of women covered with blood - their skin was scorched. There was a headless body near the door," she said.

"I saw hands lying on the ground, and all those kids they pulled out," said Ghie Arbeli, 24, who was waiting for a bus on the other side of the street when the bus exploded.

"People were in terrible shape, they were thrown all over the place," said Shlomo Levi, 56. "We can't continue like this. It is a catastrophe."

In a fortuitous turn of events that may well have saved some lives, Magen David Adom held a special course for ambulance drivers Wednesday in Jerusalem. Ambulance drivers from around the greater Jerusalem area attended the course. When the attack occurred all the drivers were already prepared, in greater numbers than usual, to go to the rescue.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that Israel would continue to pursue Palestinian militants to the fullest extent while making "every effort" on peacemaking with the Palestinians. He added that Israel had a "deep commitment to make every effort to move forward with the diplomatic process which we hope will bring quiet and with God's help, peace."

Palestinian leaders condemned the suicide bombing. Palestinian chief Yasir Arafat called the bombing a terrorist attack. He and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas also called for an immediate Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire.

A visibly angry President Bush urged all nations to cut off funding to groups such as Hamas, and to isolate those who "hate so much they are willing to kill." Bush strongly condemned the bombing and called on all nations to not only denounce the violence but use what he calls "every ounce of their power" to prevent it from happening again.

Speaking to reporters in Chicago, Bush condemned those trying to disrupt the peace plan with violence. "It is clear there are people in the Middle East who hate peace. There are people who want to kill in order to make sure that the desires of Israel to live secure in peace don't happen, who kill to make sure the desires of the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority and others of a peaceful state living side by side with Israel do not happen."

Israeli Arab Killed His Jewish Girlfriend as "Loyalty Test"


Tali Weinberg was stabbed to death a month ago in Rosh Ha'ayin. Her murderer, an Israeli Arab from Kfar Kassem, was captured Monday night by Israeli security services in Jericho.

Weinberg, who was involved in a long-term romantic relationship with her killer, was murdered as part of a "loyalty" test administered by Palestinian Authority terrorist organizations. By murdering his Jewish girlfriend, the Arab Israeli was proving that he was able and willing to kill Jews at the demand of the terrorist leaders.

Weinberg's body was discovered in a garage in Rosh Ha'ayin on May 4 with numerous stab wounds. The suspect, identified as a 21-year-old resident of Kafr Qasem, was Weinberg's boyfriend.

Weinberg, 21, from Beit Aryeh, lived with her boyfriend in a room in the garage in the industrial area of Rosh Ha'ayin. A worker at the garage discovered her body. The suspect has a criminal past for violent attacks and grand theft auto. Weinberg had a police file for drug use.

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