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Israeli Security Cabinet Discusses Response to Suicide Bombing - 2002-06-18

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened his security cabinet Tuesday to discuss a response to a Palestinian suicide bus bombing that killed at least 19 people.

Mr. Sharon first met with his defense minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, to discuss a possible Israeli military response.

The two then convened a meeting of the security cabinet, bringing together the heads of all the political factions in Mr. Sharon's coalition government.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Sharon went to the scene of the explosion, where he viewed the charred and twisted wreckage of the bus, and walked solemnly past the bodies lined up in black bags on the sidewalk.

Israeli police spokesman Gil Kleiman says the bomber boarded the bus with a large suitcase filled with explosives. "We do know that the bomb was a rather large bomb, and they utilized as fragments metal ball bearings ... in order to increase the damage," he said.

Zalman Shoval, a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Sharon, says the latest attack shows the dangers of terrorism facing Israel and the rest of the world. "Terrorism is a threat to all of us in America, in Israel, in Europe," he said. "We have to continue to fight ... because otherwise all of us in the civilized world will be in a situation which will make life unbearable."

Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, which is dedicated to Israel's destruction, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The Israeli government, however, says the Palestinian Authority is ultimately to blame for failing to halt such attacks.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, condemned the bombing and rejected the Israeli accusations.

He said it is Israel that is responsible for provoking terrorism through its continuing military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "One who benefits from such crimes is Sharon and his government because they want to use pretexts in order to prevent the beginning of any substantial peace process," said Mr. Abed Rabbo.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert says the Israeli police have received information that another bomber is planning to carry out a massive attack inside the city.