Jerusalem Bus Bombing Kills 8, Wounds 59
By RAVI NESSMAN
The Associated Press
Sunday, February 22, 2004; 2:33 PM
JERUSALEM - A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on a crowded Jerusalem bus Sunday, killing eight passengers one day before the world court was to begin hearings on Israel's disputed West Bank barrier.
"This terror attack (proves) the absolute necessity of the fence as a lifesaving instrument," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said.
Israeli officials said the suicide bombing - the 110th in more than three years of violence - proved the need to continue building the barrier to keep out future bombers.
"Today there are more funerals, more suffering, more proof that there's no end to the hatred of Israelis," Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said. "We will continue to take all necessary measures to provide security for our citizens, including the security fence."
The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group loosely affiliated with Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack and identified the bomber as Mohammed Zool, 23, from the village of Hussan near Bethlehem.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, addressing a tourism conference Sunday evening, said, "Today in Jerusalem, we received a painful reminder of the cruelty of Palestinian terrorism."
He did not indicate what Israel's response would be, but Mofaz met with top security officials Sunday to discuss the possibilities.
The blast went off about 8:30 a.m., the peak of rush hour, as the packed public bus drove past a gas station in downtown Jerusalem. Several high school students were on the bus, and at least two of the dead were teenagers. Sunday is a regular weekday in Israel.
"I felt blood on my head. I saw terrible things. I tried not to look," said Moshe Salama, 56, whose glasses were cracked by a piece of flying debris.
The bomb, laced with pieces of iron, killed eight people in addition to the bomber and wounded 59 others, rescue officials said.
It occurred near a meeting of American Jewish leaders.
"The closeness reminds (us) that everyone can be a victim of terror," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
The explosion ripped apart the back of the green bus and scattered body parts and shattered glass across a two-block radius. The windows were blown out, the windshield splintered and the roof buckled.
The bomber's family said they could not believe Zool, who had a child and a pregnant wife, was involved. Hours after the bombing, his mother was still waiting for him to return home from his construction job in Jerusalem. Israeli authorities detained several of Zool's relatives for questioning, Israeli security sources said.
© 2004 The Associated Press