Home>News Center>World

Bomber in Jerusalem kills eight, wounds 60
Updated: 2004-02-23 08:52

A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on a crowded Jerusalem bus Sunday, killing eight passengers one day before the world court was to begin hearings on Israel's disputed West Bank barrier.

The mother of Israeli soldier Nathaniel Havshush mourns on his coffin during funeral in Jerusalem February 22, 2004. Havshush was killed when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on a crowded commuter bus. [Reuters]
"This terror attack (proves) the absolute necessity of the fence as a lifesaving instrument," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said.

Israeli officials said the suicide bombing — the 110th in more than three years of violence — proved the need to continue building the barrier to keep out future bombers.

"Today there are more funerals, more suffering, more proof that there's no end to the hatred of Israelis," Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said. "We will continue to take all necessary measures to provide security for our citizens, including the security fence."

The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group loosely affiliated with Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack and identified the bomber as Mohammed Zool, 23, from the village of Hussan near Bethlehem.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, addressing a tourism conference Sunday evening, said, "Today in Jerusalem, we received a painful reminder of the cruelty of Palestinian terrorism."

He did not indicate what Israel's response would be, but Mofaz met with top security officials Sunday to discuss the possibilities.

The blast went off about 8:30 a.m., the peak of rush hour, as the packed public bus drove past a gas station in downtown Jerusalem. Several high school students were on the bus, and at least two of the dead were teenagers. Sunday is a regular weekday in Israel.

"I felt blood on my head. I saw terrible things. I tried not to look," said Moshe Salama, 56, whose glasses were cracked by a piece of flying debris.

The bomb, laced with pieces of iron, killed eight people in addition to the bomber and wounded 60 others, rescue officials said.

It occurred near a meeting of American Jewish leaders.

"The closeness reminds (us) that everyone can be a victim of terror," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The explosion ripped apart the back of the green bus and scattered body parts and shattered glass across a two-block radius. The windows were blown out, the windshield splintered and the roof buckled.

The bomber's family said they could not believe Zool, who had a child and a pregnant wife, was involved. Hours after the bombing, his mother was still waiting for him to return home from his construction job in Jerusalem. Israeli authorities detained several of Zool's relatives for questioning, Israeli security sources said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia condemned the bombing, saying it hurt his peoples' effort to mobilize international opposition to the West Bank barrier a day before hearings on the issue at the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

"We look with anger at what happened today, especially its timing and place. There is an attempt to harm the mission to the Hague," he said.

However, Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Nasser Al-Kidwa, chief of the Palestinian delegation to the court, said in The Hague he did not believe the attack would have an impact on the hearings about the barrier, which dips into Palestinian territory.

"It is a legitimate argument for any state to argue that they have to take certain measures to protect its citizens," Al-Kidwa said. "This is not the case with regard to the wall. If it was, Israel could have built this wall on its own territory."

Israeli officials said the attack never would have happened had the section of the barrier being built around Jerusalem already been completed. They claimed other areas where the barrier is finished have seen a sharp decrease in attacks.

The Palestinians say the barrier disrupts the lives of thousands of people and amounts to an Israeli effort to take land they want for a future state.

Just before the blast, Israel began removing a particularly contentious 5-mile section that isolated the Palestinian town of Baka al-Sharkia from the rest of the West Bank.

Israel's Defense Ministry said that section was unnecessary since a new section has replaced it.

Israel has come under increasing pressure to reroute the barrier to lessen the impact on the lives of Palestinians. The removal of the section Sunday appeared aimed at softening criticism ahead of the Hague hearing, though Israeli officials denied any such link.

Meanwhile, Palestinian students across the West Bank heard descriptions about how the barrier separates farmers from their land, students from their schools and divides families.

"There is no future for my people with this fence ... we will be like birds in a cage," said Ikram Abu Aish, a 16-year-old student whose sister carried out a suicide bombing that wounded three policemen.

Sunday's attack was the first since a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus near Sharon's house on Jan. 29, killing 11 passengers.

Nir Barkat, a former Jerusalem mayoral candidate, was driving near the bus when it exploded and ran to help the wounded.

"It's horrible what happened here, and the world has to know this," Barkat told Channel Two TV, his hands, pants and shoes still covered in blood.

  Today's Top News     Top World News

Commentary: 'One country' key to `two systems'



Online posting comes under criticism



Bird flu restrictions eased at first site



Schwarzenegger hints at White House interest



Taiwan patriotic uprising in 1947 commemorated



Experts: China may raise renminbi interest rate


  Bomber in Jerusalem kills eight, wounds 60
  8 die in Iranian vote clashes as conservatives win
  British government to recruit new spies
  S.F. celebrates same-sex newlyweds
  Rebels seize Haiti's second-largest city
  Citigroup to Buy S.Korea's Koram Bank
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  News Talk  
  The evil root of all instability in the world today