Bus blast kills at least 11 in Jerusalem

Schoolchildren among suicide bomber's victims

Thursday, November 21, 2002   
7:44 AM EST (1244 GMT)

Investigators, paramedics and volunteers surround the bombed bus in Jerusalem.

Witnesses cry in anguish shortly after the terror attack on the bus.
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A suicide bomber killed 11 people and injured 50 -- including many schoolchildren -- aboard a crowded Israeli commuter bus in Jerusalem on Thursday morning, according to Israeli police.

The bus regularly carries schoolchildren and university students, according to Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert.

Eyewitnesses told Israeli media the explosion occurred shortly after a man boarded the bus.

"Every time I come to such a site, I can't escape the thought that a living person entered the bus, and he saw the young kid of 6, 7 years old sitting, and he blows him apart," Olmert said, from about two meters from the scene of the attack.  "This is something that you have to see to understand how terrible it is."

"The atmosphere is one of great sadness," he added.

Video of the scene showed bus #20 with virtually no windows intact, as rescue workers and ambulance services rushed the injured on stretchers into awaiting ambulances.

The bus was heading into Jerusalem's city center from Kiryat Menachem, a low-income suburb just west of the city.

Israeli police identified the bomber as a 26-year-old Palestinian from Bethlehem, which is five kilometers (3 miles) from the scene of the terror attack.  A short time later, Israeli military sources said the bomber's brother and uncle had been arrested in the village of Dura near Hebron. 

'God, put in our heart the love'

Olmert said Israeli authorities have prevented an average of 10 terror attacks -- bombings, shootings and suicide attacks -- every night.  Hours before the bus bombing, Israeli forces arrested two Palestinian members of the Tanzim movement in Bethlehem who intended to carry out a suicide bombing, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Tanzim is the term Israeli officials use to describe militia members of Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

Twelve other Palestinians were also arrested overnight near Hebron, according to the IDF, and two senior Hamas activists were arrested in the village of Tubas.

Olmert blamed Arafat for Thursday's terror attack.

"The bombing's not going to stop as long as Yasser Arafat wants it to continue," Olmert said.  "He wants to cover the political process in Israel in blood."

"There is nothing that he wants more than to hopefully, from his point of view, put down Ariel Sharon."

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat condemned Thursday's attack but called Israeli accusations "a broken record."

"We cannot accept the official Israeli accusations against the Palestinian Authority and Arafat," Erakat said.

"We reiterate that the only way to stop this vicious cycle is through resumption of a meaningful peace process that would lead to the end of Israeli occupation."

The last terror attack in Jerusalem, on August 1 at Hebrew University, killed at least seven people, including four Americans.

Simcha Cohen, who lives across the street from the scene of Thursday's explosion, said she was tired of the ongoing violence that has her living in fear.

"I shake every morning, every time that I go to the city, that I go to the market," she said. "We have to start a new life, it's enough -- 65 years I am living with the fight.

"I pray every day, every night. Every single day I say, 'God, put in our heart the love, start to love each other.'"

Speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit in the Czech Republic, President Bush on Thursday condemned the latest terror attack in Jerusalem.

"I am greatly disturbed by the news in the Middle East today.  There's been yet another suicide attack.  It is clear that those who want to use terror to stop any process for peace are still active," he said.

"In order to achieve peace, all countries in that region must be responsible for, take responsibility, do their best to fight off terror."

Israeli forces enter Gaza

Earlier Thursday, Israeli forces entered Gaza with 50 tanks and two Apache helicopters and moved into three villages, witnesses and Palestinian sources said.

The incursion began near Khan Yunis, around 2 a.m. (6 p.m. ET Wednesday), with tanks firing as they rolled into the nearby villages of Abasan, Boni Suhaila and Khuza. Shots were also coming from the helicopters, witnesses said.

Palestinian sources said the army was destroying houses in those villages.

There was no word on casualties.  Sources said the only hospital in the area is in the middle of the military operation.

The Israel Defense Forces had no immediate comment.

On Sunday, Israeli helicopters destroyed a workshop in Khan Yunis.  Israel said the workshop was being used to build weapons used in terrorist attacks against Israelis.

-- CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.