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Palestinian Authority Condemns Suicide Bombing - 2004-01-29

A suspected Palestinian suicide bomber has set off an explosion on a bus in Jerusalem, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens more. The blast occurred close to the official residence of Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, who was not in the area at the time.

The force of the explosion on a residential street close to the downtown area of Jerusalem blew off part of the bus's roof and shattered windows.

Eyewitnesses say they saw some of the dead lying near the burnt out wreckage of the vehicle.

Police sealed off the area as ambulances rushed the wounded to nearby hospitals.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the killings, saying it is part of what it called a cycle of violence.

But Israel insists that the Palestinian leadership is to blame for failing to stop Palestinian terrorism.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Sharon, Raanan Gissin, says the bombing has underlined the need for Israel to continue building a security barrier in and around the West Bank.

Israel says the barrier is aimed at preventing Palestinians from crossing over from the West Bank into the Jewish state to carry out suicide bombings and other terror attacks.

Israel is preparing to present its case for building the barrier at a hearing next month at the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Thursday's bombing also came as Israel began carrying out an exchange of prisoners with the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

Israeli officials say the blast is unrelated to the prisoner swap, which will go ahead as planned.

Under the deal, Israel will set free some 400 Palestinian prisoners and more than 30 others from various Arab countries, including 23 from Lebanon.

In return, the Hezbollah will hand over Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped and killed by the organization in October, 2000.