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17 Killed as Palestinian Suicide Bomber Targets Israeli Bus.

By IsraeliWire.Com News Sources

A Palestinian suicide bomber has blown up a car packed with explosives next to a bus in northern Israel, killing 17 people and wounding nearly 50 others. Thirteen of the dead were Israeli soldiers. The bomber attacked the bus early Wednesday near the Megiddo junction, a few kilometers from the West Bank, between Hadera and Afula. The bus burst into flames, rolled over twice and was gutted by fire.

Megiddo is the site of the battle of Armageddon, according to the New Testament's Book of Revelation. The word Armageddon is Greek, taken from the Hebrew "Har Megiddo"-meaning Mount Megiddo. The Bible says it will be the site of the last battle and herald the end of the world. Megiddo has a history of bloody wars. The old, fortified city was the site of battles involving the ancient Israelites, Canaanites and Egyptians and features prominently in the Old Testament.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, identifying the bomber as Hamze Samudi, a teenager from the Palestinian town of Jenin. The group said it carried out the attack to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the 1967 Mideast war, in which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. "A seeker of martyrdom...from the Jerusalem Brigades detonated an explosives-laden car that he drove near a Zionist bus," the group said in a statement.

But Israel blamed the Palestinian Authority. "We believe that Yasir Arafat is behind all of this," said Israeli spokesman Arieh Mekel. The Palestinian Authority condemned the bombing and reportedly ordered the arrest of the Islamic Jihad members who dispatched the bomber.

The attack has caused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to delay his planned Friday departure for the United States until late Saturday -- but Israeli officials said he would still meet with President Bush on Monday as scheduled.

The foreign ministry lodged a complaint with the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television network Wednesday after the ministry quoted Al Jazeera as having named the militant Jewish Kach organization as responsible for the attack. Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General Gideon Meir told Israel Radio that ministry officials were amazed by Al Jazeera's report. Asked if the foreign ministry was in contact with the Al Jazeera television network, Meir said "Of course. They have a correspondent in Israel and we are in regular contact with him."

President Bush condemned the bus bombing in Israel in what a spokesman calls "the strongest terms." White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the attack underscores that the terrorists are the worst enemies not only of Israelis, but also of the Palestinian people and their hopes for a better life.

The explosion took place around 7:15 a.m. when Egged bus #830 traveling from Tel Aviv to the Kinneret seaside city of Tiberias. The bus had left Tel Aviv at 5:50 and was packed with Israeli soldiers traveling to various army bases in the northern part of the country. Some of the passengers were hurled - safely - out of the bus by the force of the blast, while others remained trapped inside the flames.

The bus was totally burnt and reduced to a skeleton of charred metal. The flames seriously hampered rescue efforts, while small explosions - probably bullets from the soldier-passengers' weapons - continued to be heard from inside the burning bus for several minutes after the blast. The car was loaded with what the police called a "very large" explosive, as well as many of the usual metallic fragments, nails, and bolts designed to increase the carnage.

"For the last couple of years I've been involved in these kind of things. I've never seen a bus burned as badly as this," said Shmul Shimshoni of the Burial Society. "And a lot of the body parts were actually burned beyond being able to tell that they were actually body parts without very, very close examination."

It was the deadliest attack since Israel`s offensive in Judea and Samaria ended a month ago. The bus overturned twice and was engulfed in flames. All that remained was a charred skeleton of twisted metal. The bodies of a man and woman were found among the dead; they were embracing in their last moments.
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Comment:17 Killed as Palestinian Suicide Bomber Targets Israeli Bus.(Brief Article)(Statistical Data Included)
Publication:Israel Faxx
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jun 6, 2002
Words:703
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