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Yet ANOTHER &$%@# bombing in Israel

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At least 14 killed in Israeli bus blast

Two suicide bombers detonate car beside bus

NBC, MSNBC AND NEWS SERVICES

TEL AVIV, Israel, Oct. 21 — At least 14 bus passengers were killed in a huge blast in northern Israel on Monday, police said. Dozens more were wounded when two suspected suicide bombers detonated explosives after pulling their car up beside the crowded bus during rush hour.

THE POWERFUL BLAST took place several miles inland from the coastal town of Hadera, at Karkur Junction. The intense flames sent plumes of smoke into the sky and prevented police and rescue workers from approaching the vehicle immediately, according to broadcast reports.

“It was like an earthquake. The whole bus is burned and nothing is left of it,” Meital Ziskin, a witness, told Israeli television.

The attack will likely further complicate the mission of U.S. envoy William Burns, who is scheduled to visit Israel later this week in an effort to ease tension between Israelis and Palestinians.

After several previous attacks, the Israeli army has carried out military strikes and security crackdowns in Palestinian areas.

Israel did not immediately say what actions it might take in response to Monday’s attack.

More than 30 people were hurt, according to rescue workers.

The attack was condemned by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, although Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres accused the Palestinian Authority of being lax on militants.

Speaking to Reuters Television in Luxembourg shortly after the blast, Peres said, “We know it may be impossible to prevent all acts of terror, but the least we expect is that the Palestinians really show an effort to stop it even if they did not organize it.”

According to the Lebanon-based al-Manar television station, which is run by the Hizballah group, the attack in Israel was claimed by the Islamic Jihad.

WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said of the bombing: “The president condemns the most recent attack in Israel. It’s another reminder of how it’s so important for peace to be pursued and for terror to be stopped.”

Mark Sofer, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said the attack was intended to undermine Burns’ visit.

“Palestinian groups seized the opportunity to carry out yet another murderous attack inside of Israel aimed at innocent civilians, and one can only wonder and wonder again what do they want to achieve except for death, death and more death of innocent people,” he said.

One rescue worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was an armed guard on the bus but that he could do nothing under the circumstances.

The Hadera area has been a frequent target of Palestinian militants who have carried out dozens of bomb attacks in the Mideast in the past two years of violence. Although Hadera is on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, it is only a few miles from the northern West Bank, where many of the suicide bombers have come from.

A Palestinian gunman burst into a banquet hall in the town on Jan. 5 and sprayed gunfire at a family celebrating a bat mitzvah, a Jewish coming-of-age celebration. Six guests were killed.

Buses traveling to or from Hadera to cities and towns inland in northern Israel have been attacked numerous times.

A suicide bomber from the radical Islamic Jihad group pulled his car up next to a bus on June 5 and detonated his explosives, killing 16 passengers near Meggido, about 15 miles northeast of Hadera.

2 PALESTINIANS KILLED

In other developments Monday, defiant Israeli settlers tried to rebuild an illegal outpost in the West Bank after Israeli security forces tore it down a day before, and the two sides appeared headed for another confrontation.

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army said troops shot two armed Palestinians overnight near the Israeli settlement of Kfar Darom. Israel radio stations said the two were killed, but Palestinian officials said they unaware of a clash in the area.

At the illegal West Bank outpost of Havat Gilad, settlers returned early Monday after the Israeli security forces finished dismantling structures there Sunday night. The settlers were trying to rebuild structures with sheets of corrugated metal that had been torn down a day earlier, Israeli radio stations reported.

Police and soldiers have repeatedly scuffled with demonstrators in recent days at the site, near the Palestinian city of Nablus.

Thirty illegal outposts have been slated for evacuation, and 20 have already been taken down, according to Amikam Tzirsky, an aide to Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who heads the initiative to dismantle the illegal outposts.

SHARON CHIDES SETTLERS

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a staunch supporter of the settler movement, spoke out against the settlers’ use of violence against police and troops carrying out government orders.

On Sunday, settlers at Havat Gilad burned tires and then threw punches and water bottles at security forces in a bid to keep them off the hilltop outpost, which had consisted of several makeshift homes where a handful of settlers lived for several months.

Havat Gilad is one of dozens of illegal outposts that have cropped up over the past several years. It was established a year ago by the family of a settler who was shot dead by Palestinian militants nearby.

In an interview with the Yediot Ahronot daily, Ben-Eliezer said he was considering quitting the coalition government after Cabinet ministers, many of whom support the settlers, criticized him for initiating the operation to evacuate the settlers during the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday.

Deputy Defense Minister Weizman Shiri told Israel’s Army Radio that Ben-Eliezer’s personal security detail was on heightened alert. The Israeli media said Ben-Eliezer had received warnings that Jewish extremists might try to assassinate him. Meanwhile, in Qabatiyeh, a small West Bank town near the town of Jenin, the Israeli army said it destroyed the house of a Palestinian militant it accused of organizing a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in January.

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