Car Bomb Kills At Least Thirteen in Israel
The bus caught fire in the blast, trapping riders in a blaze so intense, rescue workers could not approach the vehicle immediately.
Witnesses described a thunderous blast that sent a mushroom cloud of black smoke into the air.
“I was 60 meters from the bus station … and I heard an explosion. The bus was completely shattered. I saw the bus go up in flames. It was completely wrecked,” a witness told Israel Radio.
The militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The explosion occurred inland from the coastal town of Hadera, near the West Bank, in a region hit hard by suicide attacks since the Palestinian uprising began more than two years ago.
In a letter faxed to the Associated Press in Beirut, Lebanon, Islamic Jihad said the bombing was in “retaliation for the series of massacres committed by the criminal enemy against our people.”
In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president condemned the bombing.
“It’s another reminder of how it’s so important for peace to be pursued and for terror to be stopped,” he said.
U.S. Assistant Sec. of State William Burns is scheduled to arrive in Israel Wednesday to lay the groundwork for peace talks. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Sofer said the attack was intended to undermine Burns’ visit.
“Palestinian groups seized the opportunity to carry out yet another murderous attack inside of Israel aimed at innocent civilians,” Sofer said, “and one can only wonder and wonder again what do they want to achieve except for death, death and more death of innocent people.”
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat also condemned the bombing, saying the Palestinian leadership is against “such attacks that target civilians, Israelis or Palestinians.”
The attack follows a brief lull since the last suicide bomber killed an elderly woman in Tel Aviv on Oct. 10. Israeli security forces, however, are warning that Palestinian militants are planning a fresh wave of attacks.