At least 16 dead and more than 84 wounded – in a suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem. Shortly afterwards, Israeli helicopters fire rockets at a car in Gaza City – killing seven – including at least two members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Amy Katz has more on this new round of violence in the Middle East.
On a website that publishes official statements from Hamas, the Palestinian militant group claimed responsibility for the suicide bus bombing, which took place on Jaffa Street, West Jerusalem’s main thoroughfare, and the site of previous suicide attacks. A Hamas spokesman said the attack was a message to Israelis that they are not safe anywhere. U.S. President George W. Bush expressed his condolences and said the attack shows there are people in the Middle East who hate peace. He urged all people around the world, to fight terror and to cut off funding to organizations like Hamas.
U.S. PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
“I strongly condemn the killings. And I urge and call upon all the free world, nations which love peace, to not only condemn the killings, but to use every ounce of their power to prevent them from happening in the future.”
Shortly after the Jerusalem bombing, Israeli helicopters fired rockets at a car in Gaza City. It was not immediately clear whether the strike was in retaliation for the earlier suicide bombing. The Wednesday violence came just a day after Hamas vowed to avenge Israel’s attempt to kill a senior Hamas official –Abdel Aziz Rantisi.
Earlier Wednesday, Israel said it has intelligence that Mr. Rantisi was helping plan attacks against Israelis. Israeli officials said that shows the attempt to kill him was justified, and was not intended to sabotage the so-called “road map” peace plan.
Before the Wednesday attack, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with his cabinet. He reportedly said that Israel would make no concessions to terror.
In Cairo Wednesday, the Israeli–Palestinian situation was high on the agenda as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Mr. Mubarak criticized the Israeli attack against Mr. Rantisi. He had already sent emissaries to meet with both the Israelis and Palestinians to defuse the crisis. Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman went to Ramallah Wednesday, to meet with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.