Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, August 05, 2002

Bus Blast in Northern Israel Kills Nine, Injures 50

A bus explosion occurred in northern Israel on Sunday morning, destroying a bus in a location between Acre and Tsfat.


A bus explosion occurred in northern Israel on Sunday morning, destroying a bus in a location between Acre and Tsfat.

Nine killed, 50 wounded
At least nine people were killed and some 50 others wounded in the blast at around 9 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) on Sunday, local police said.

Of the wounded, 20 are in serious condition. All of the wounded have been evacuated to hospital.

Police said the explosion occurred near the city of Safad. The ill-fated bus, numbered 361, was hit while travelling from the coastal city of Haifa to Safad.

"It is a terrorist attack in a bus and there are apparently many, many casualties," Israeli northern police commander Yehuda Solomon told Israel Radio.

He said the explosion took place near the entrance to the burialsite of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, which is frequently visited by Jewish pilgrims.

Hamas claims responsibility for blast
The Ezz-Eddin Al-Kassam, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing attack.

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite TV reported that an anonym said in a telephone call his movement's armed wing Ezz-Eddin Al-Kassam is responsible for the suicide attack.

A suicide bomber blew himself up on an bus traveling near the northern town of Safad Sunday morning, Israeli Radio reported.

Mahmoud Al Zahhar, a spokesman for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, saidthe suicide bombing attack was carried out "in revenge for the crimes that the Zionists are carrying out on daily bases against our people."

He said the Ezz-Eddin Al-Kassam delivered a leaflet without mentioning the name of the bomber in fear that the Israeli army would blow up his house and deport his family.

"The program of resistance is continued against the enemy," Al Zahar said, adding that the ability of the Palestinian people to retaliate "became effective" and the Israelis should now "think carefully" to end its occupation of the West Bank.

Israel accuses PNA of responsible for attack
Israeli officials said after Sunday morning's bus bombing that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) bore ultimate responsibility for the attack.

"This attack on an Israeli civilian bus is another prime exampleof how the PNA feeds on terror," said David Baker, an official fromIsraeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office.

Israel Radio quoted a PNA official as saying the attack was onlyto be expected, "given the ongoing Israeli troops' terror against the Palestinians."

Israeli police said the explosion occurred near the city of Safad and the ill-fated bus, numbered 361, was hit while travellingfrom the coastal city of Haifa to Safad.

Ron Atner, a spokesman for the bus company, said there were manyIsrael Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers on the bus.

"On Sunday morning, the passengers are regulars, many of them are soldiers on their way to bases in the north," said Atner.

Sunday blast is the second attack Hamas has carried out in a week. On Wednesday, the group carried out a bombing attack at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in which seven people were killed and more than 70 others wounded.

Hamas said it will avenge the killing of Hamas armed wing commander Salah Shehada in a bombardment by an Israeli F-16 warplane of a building in Gaza City about two weeks ago.

Fourteen Palestinian civilians were also killed in the raid, nine of them were children.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) officials "expected that such attacks would be carried out against the Palestinians" ina new round of violence cycle.

Ahmed Abdel Rahman, the secretary general of the PNA cabinet also said, "The Israeli crimes against our people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are the main reason for carrying out these attacks against the Israelis."

Palestinian officials, however, have repeatedly condemned and stress their stand against attacks targeting Israeli civilians.

They have promised that the Palestinian security forces "would do its best to prevent attacks against Israeli civilians."

While Palestinian officials say they are still trying to persuade Hamas to abandon reprisal attacks, Hamas has vowed in a leaflet that it will avenge the killing of Shehada by carrying out 10 suicide bombing attacks and kill 100 Israelis.

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