Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Jerusalem Suicide Bus Bombing Kills 20

A suicide bomber blew up a nearly-full bus in downtown Jerusalem, killing at least 20 people,many of them children, and wounded some 100 Tuesday night.


A suicide bomber blew up a nearly-full bus in downtown Jerusalem, killing at least 20 people, many of them children, and wounded some 100 Tuesday night.

The radical group Islamic Jihad (holy war) claimed responsibility for the attack. The group had previously vowed revenge for the killing of its senior official Mohammed Sidr on Aug. 14 during his arrest by Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The bombing, one of the deadliest in Jerusalem in the history, occurred at around 9:20 p.m. (1820 GMT) on bus No. 19 from the Israeli National Bus Company, and the site of the bombing, in the Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood, is near the Green Line (pre-1967 war border between Israel and the West Bank) separating eastern and western Jerusalem.

Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy told local TV that the explosives charge was particularly large, and was apparently setoff in the middle of the two-stage bus.

The bus ran from the Wailing Wall to the ultra-Orthodox MeaShearim neighborhood. Israeli Channel One TV reported that the police were checking the possibility that the bomber was disguised as an ultra-Orthodox Jew.

Police have closed the site off to traffic and have asked the public to keep away from the scene in case there are other explosive devices.

The United States condemned the attack, and urged the Palestinians to dismantle the terrorist organizations.

"We condemn this act of terrorism in the strongest possible terms," White House spokesman Sean McCormack said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the victims."

This was not the first attack since Palestinian militant groups declared a temporary cease-fire on June 29.

On Aug. 12, two Israelis were killed in near-simultaneous suicide attacks, one in the West Bank settlement of Ariel and the other in the town of Rosh Ha'ayin, close to the Green Line.

Hamas said it was behind the Ariel attack, saying it was in response to the deaths of three of its activists during an Israeli raid in Nablus. The Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the Rosh Ha'ayin attack.

Following Tuesday's fresh suicide attack, Israel has said it will freeze all security talks and the withdrawal of its troops from any more West Bank cities.

Earlier on Tuesday Israel has decided to continue talks with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on transferring security control of four West Bank cities, saying that two of the four cities, Qalqilyah and Jericho, will be handed over to PNA this week, and the other two, TulKarm and Ramallah, are expected to be handed over to the Palestinian control next week.

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