JERUSALEM (BP)–At least eight people were killed and 14 wounded when a suicide bomber caused an explosion on an Israeli bus outside Haifa during the morning rush hour April 10, CNSNews.com reported.
Israeli officials said the latest terror attack underscores the need for its counter-terrorism operations in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli offensive has come under strong international criticism.
Police spokesman Gil Kleiman said the suicide bomber chose to do the deadly work on a crowded express bus linking northern Haifa with Jerusalem.
“The police have been on full alert for many months,” Kleiman said, and they did not lower their level of mobilization and alert despite the counter-terrorism operation by the army in PA areas, he said.
There were no specific warnings about an attack like this, only general warnings, he said. Until Wednesday, Israeli had experienced a week without a suicide bombing attack.
Television images showed the front part of the bus’ roof blown off, windows blown out from front to back, and blood on the outside the bus.
Eyewitnesses described the horror at the scene.
“To my regret, the sight is horrible,” Yitzhak Rotman, was quoted by the Tel Aviv newspaper Ha’aretz as saying. “There are many dead bodies, some outside the bus, some inside…. The bus is shattered, from one end to the other.”
Some passing cars were also hit by the force of the blast. The damaged vehicles could be seen in footage from the site.
Another witness said the bus had been traveling a short distance in front of him. “Suddenly a huge blast, the bus flew in the air, three or four meters, then landed,” he said. “This is simply catastrophic — there are pieces everywhere, people are thrown about in every direction.”
One distraught man interviewed on the radio said that whoever talked about diplomacy should come and see this site.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Yaffa Ben-Ari said Israel had responded to President Bush’s call for a withdrawal “without delay” where possible from PA areas where the Israeli army has been attempting to destroy the terrorist infrastructure. On the other hand, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat has not heeded calls to end the terror or stop the attacks, Ben-Ari charged.
Bush has called on Israel to withdraw its troops and called on Arafat to declare in Arabic an end to the terrorism.
Israel pulled back its troops from the West Bank towns of Kalkilya and Tulkarem on April 9 but remained engaged in several other cities. Washington called the pullout “a start.”
“It seems the Palestinians are giving a welcome to Secretary of State Colin Powell,” Ben-Ari said. The Palestinians destroyed the three visits of Washington’s special envoy Gen. Anthony Zinni and now they want to destroy this, too, she charged.
Powell is due in Israel the evening of April 11. He is scheduled to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an attempt to bring a halt to violence and bloodshed in the area, marked during the week of April 8 by the ambush and killing of 15 Israeli troops in a Jenin refugee camp and an ongoing standoff at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity in which at least two Palestinians have been killed.
Despite intensive international pressure and Washington’s call on Israel to withdraw, Ben-Ari said the latest suicide bombing will not bring an end to the operation.
“It encourages us to complete the job,” Ben-Ari said.
“Enough is enough. The terrorism must stop now. There is no solution except negotiations and negotiations can’t take place as long as there is terror,” she added.
The Qatari-based al-Jazeera television said that the militant Hamas organization had claimed responsibility for the bus attack. Earlier in the week, Hamas vowed revenge for the killing of several of its militants.
On March 31, the Izzadin al Kassam military wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for an attack at an Arab owned restaurant in Haifa in which 15 people were killed and more than 30 wounded.
Israel has said that it holds Arafat personally responsible for not even trying to stop the attacks and arrest those who are known to be planning them.
Stahl is the Jerusalem bureau chief with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.