A Palestinian suicide bomber has killed himself and eight other passengers on a bus near the port city of Haifa. Following the bombing, top Israeli officials decided to continue with a massive military offensive in the West Bank.
A suicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body on a crowded bus during the morning rush hour close to the coastal city of Haifa. The explosion threw bodies and personal belongings along a highway and left the roof of the vehicle a mound of twisted and charred wreckage.
The militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing.
After the attack, Israeli government ministers decided to continue the major military offensive in the West Bank that began late last month after a series of suicide bombings killed dozens of Israelis.
The United States and other countries have urged Israel to withdraw its soldiers from the West Bank without delay.
In the city of Jenin hundreds of Palestinians surrendered a day after 13 Israeli soldiers were killed during an ambush in a refugee camp there.
In Bethlehem an Armenian monk was shot and seriously wounded at the compound housing the Church of the Nativity. It was not immediately clear who shot the monk, but Israeli troops are surrounding the site where tradition says Jesus was born because 200 Palestinians, many of them armed, have been hiding in the church for more than a week.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Israelis must understand the use of military force will never bring them peace and security. "Maybe - and only maybe - the Israeli public must understand that the security for them cannot come through the pains and the harming of Palestinians," said Mr. Erekat. "We do not condone the killing of civilians, Israelis or Palestinians. But at the same time, the Israeli public must understand that they need to have a responsible leadership."
The latest bombing came a day before U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is due to arrive in Jerusalem in an effort to broker a cease-fire to end more than 18 months of bloodshed.
Israeli government spokesman Dore Gold says he doubts efforts to negotiate a truce with Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat will be successful.
"Yasser Arafat is more or less a flat tire," said Mr. Gold. "You can try to pump him up with more air, but the air is going to come out and you diplomatically cannot move forward. We have now gone through 10 cease-fire efforts under American auspices. Secretary Powell coming here is now the 11th cease-fire effort the U.S. is trying to broker with Yasser Arafat. At some point you look at the numbers, and you wonder whether you should go to a 13th, 14th, 15th cease-fire effort. Arafat is a spent force, and he is not going to stabilize the situation.'
Israel says it will not block a meeting between Secretary Powell and Mr. Arafat.