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15 Dead in Suspected Suicide Bomb Attack on Jerusalem Bus - 2003-06-11


An explosion has ripped through a bus in central Jerusalem, and police say at least 15 people were killed and dozens of others wounded. Less than an hour after the blast, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a car in the Gaza Strip, killing at least six Palestinians.

Israeli police say a Palestinian suicide bomber was behind the explosion that turned a commuter bus into smoldering wreckage. Ambulances have rushed to the scene close to the city's open-air market, Mahane Yehuda.

Shortly after the attack, Israeli forces mounted fresh military operations in the Gaza Strip. Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a car, destroying the vehicle.

On Tuesday, Israel attempted to assassinate Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Hamas vowed to launch a wave of revenge attacks that would "set the land on fire."

Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahar said the bombing proved that Palestinian fighters were capable of reaching Israelis anywhere, but he stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack.

The organization frequently carries out suicide bombings and other terror attacks.

Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas has called for Hamas and other groups to suspend their attacks to give negotiations with Israel a chance to succeed. He has also ruled out using force against Hamas, saying his only course of action would be dialogue.

The Israeli Cabinet issued a statement saying the operation against Mr. Rantisi was justified and that the government would take every action possible to ensure the security of its citizens.

The statement followed harsh criticism of the Israeli operation by U.S. President George W. Bush, who said such acts would not enhance the security of Israel and also make it difficult for the Palestinian leadership to persuade militant groups to halt terror attacks.

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