Jerusalem Bus Bombing Kills 8, Wounds 59
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia condemned the bombing, saying it hurt his peoples' effort to mobilize international opposition to the West Bank barrier a day before hearings on the issue at the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
"We look with anger at what happened today, especially its timing and place. There is an attempt to harm the mission to the Hague," he said.
However, Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Nasser Al-Kidwa, chief of the Palestinian delegation to the court, said in The Hague he did not believe the attack would have an impact on the hearings about the barrier, which dips into Palestinian territory.
"It is a legitimate argument for any state to argue that they have to take certain measures to protect its citizens," Al-Kidwa said. "This is not the case with regard to the wall. If it was, Israel could have built this wall on its own territory."
Israeli officials said the attack never would have happened had the section of the barrier being built around Jerusalem already been completed. They claimed other areas where the barrier is finished have seen a sharp decrease in attacks.
The Palestinians say the barrier disrupts the lives of thousands of people and amounts to an Israeli effort to take land they want for a future state.
Just before the blast, Israel began removing a particularly contentious 5-mile section that isolated the Palestinian town of Baka al-Sharkia from the rest of the West Bank.
Israel's Defense Ministry said that section was unnecessary since a new section has replaced it.
Israel has come under increasing pressure to reroute the barrier to lessen the impact on the lives of Palestinians. The removal of the section Sunday appeared aimed at softening criticism ahead of the Hague hearing, though Israeli officials denied any such link.
Meanwhile, Palestinian students across the West Bank heard descriptions about how the barrier separates farmers from their land, students from their schools and divides families.
"There is no future for my people with this fence ... we will be like birds in a cage," said Ikram Abu Aish, a 16-year-old student whose sister carried out a suicide bombing that wounded three policemen.
Sunday's attack was the first since a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus near Sharon's house on Jan. 29, killing 11 passengers.
Nir Barkat, a former Jerusalem mayoral candidate, was driving near the bus when it exploded and ran to help the wounded.
"It's horrible what happened here, and the world has to know this," Barkat told Channel Two TV, his hands, pants and shoes still covered in blood.
© 2004 The Associated Press