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Suspected Palestinian Suicide Bomber Attacks Bus in Northern Israel - 2002-10-21

At least 13 people are reported killed and 40 more wounded, in a suicide bombing attack on a bus in northern Israel. Police say a suspected Palestinian suicide attacker drove up close to the bus and then set off the bomb near the town of Hadera, north of Tel Aviv, during the afternoon rush hour.

The bus caught fire, preventing police and rescue workers from immediately pulling survivors out of the wreckage.

The military wing of the militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the explosion.

Hadera, which is situated close to the northern part of the West Bank, has been a frequent target of Palestinian terrorism.

Palestinian-leader Yasser Arafat condemned the car bombing, saying he is opposed to all attacks against civilians. Mr. Arafat has also condemned suicide attacks in the past, but the Israeli Government accuses him of supporting, and even orchestrating the violence.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who is in Europe, told reporters that Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority must share the blame for the latest killings. Mr. Peres said the Palestinian leadership has failed to use the 40,000-strong Palestinian security forces to halt terrorism.

The attack followed warnings from the Israeli army that Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian militant groups had been planning to launch new suicide attacks.

Israeli troops re-occupied most Palestinian cities in the West Bank in June, in an effort to prevent more terrorism.

There was talk of withdrawing from some of the cities soon, but Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says the troops will only withdraw once he is certain that the cities will be not be used as bases to launch attacks against his citizens.