|HAIFA, Israel, March 5 —
At least 10 people were killed Wednesday when an explosion tore apart a
bus in the northern Israeli city of Haifa. The city’s police chief said
it was a suicide bombing, the first in Israel in two months.
OFFICIALS SAID because of the hour,
the bus would have been packed with students from the nearby University
“This is a terror attack,”
said Haifa police chief Yaacov Borovsky. “We are talking about a suicide
The blast ripped off the roof
of the No. 37 bus, strewing wreckage and body parts across the street.
Witnesses said the explosion occurred just after the bus stopped in the
hilltop neighborhood Carmelia at about 2:17 p.m.
“The bus exploded. The entire
bus was damaged. The entire bus caught fire. The entire top of the bus
is totally destroyed — the windows, doors. Nothing is left,” a witness
who gave his name as Dore told Israel Radio.
There was no immediate claim
of responsibility for the blast.
But if confirmed as a suicide
attack, it would end a two-month lull in such attacks since 23 people were
killed in twin suicide bombings in Tel Aviv on Jan. 5.
David Baker, a spokesman
for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, blamed Palestinians for the attack.
He told the Haaretz newspaper,
“Israel will not tolerate this terror, and will continue to take the necessary
steps to eradicate it.”
The roof of the bus was completely
destroyed and a fire left the bus a skeletan of charred and twisted metal.
Rescue officials said eight
people were killed and many more injured, some seriously.
“There are dozens of casualties,
among them seriously injured,” Avi Zohar, a rescues services spokesman,
told Israeli television.
A police source told Reuters
that “the number may go higher since there are more body parts at the scene.”
HAMAS PRAISES BOMBING
Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a spokesman
for the Islamic militant Hamas group, praised the attack but did not claim
“We will not stop our resistance,”
he said. “We are not going to give up in the face of the daily killing”
The attack comes days after
the establishment of a new, right-wing government in Israel. Some of the
key Cabinet ministers have in the past called for the expulsion of Yasser
Arafat, whom Israel accuses of sponsoring terror attacks.
It also coincides with a two-week-old
Israeli military offensive against Hamas strongholds in the Gaza Strip
in which dozens of Palestinians have been killed, including some civilians.
NBC News bureau in Tel Aviv, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed
to this report