BREAKING NEWS     NBC NEWS AND NEWS SERVICES
10 killed as bomb rips Haifa bus   
Israeli official blames Palestinians for attack
 . . . 
     Massacre: Homicide Bomber Slaughter
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 of Haifa.
       “This is a terror attack,” said Haifa police chief Yaacov Borovsky. “We are talking about a suicide bomber.”
       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.”
 
BUS DESTROYED
       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 responsibility.
       “We will not stop our resistance,” he said. “We are not going to give up in the face of the daily killing” of Palestinians.
       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