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SLUG: 2-292746 Israel Explosion (L 2nd-UPD)









INTRO: In Israel, a suicide bombing of a crowded bus in the north of the country and a shooting attack in Jerusalem have claimed the lives of at least 12-people. Dozens of Israelis were wounded in the latest violence, in which both Palestinian attackers died. Ross Dunn reports from Jerusalem.

TEXT: Israeli security forces shot dead a Palestinian man in a fierce exchange of gunfire close to the Damascus Gate, an entrance to the Old City in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian had opened fire without warning, sparking the gun-battle in which an Israeli security guard and an Arab bystander were also killed.

The attack followed a suicide bombing of a bus filled with workers and soldiers near the northern Israeli city of Safed. The massive explosion lifted the roof of the bus and transformed it into a lethal inferno.

The militant Islamic group Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing. It described it as an act of heroism to avenge the death of their military leader, Salah Shehadah, in an Israeli air strike on his Gaza home. Nine children were among those killed in that attack

Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahar says all Israelis must now consider themselves exposed to violence.

/// ZAHAR ACT ///

Every Israeli is a target, as now the Israelis are using every Palestinian as a target.

/// ACT ENDS ///

Hamas refused to disclose the identity of the bomber in the bus attack in order to protect relatives from retaliation by Israel.

The Israeli security cabinet has ruled that families of suspected Palestinian terrorists can be expelled from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip or put on trial if they knew about a bombing operation and failed to do anything to stop it.

Israel is still searching for the Hamas members who carried out a bombing that killed seven people last week at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Mark Sofer, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, says that the Palestinian violence is intolerable.

/// SOFER ACT ///

The Palestinians have started a new week of bloodletting in exactly the same way, and exactly the same method as they ended the last one. An horrific attack against civilians going around their daily lives, despicable acts of violence and terror that has become part and parcel of their daily life, sadly.

/// END ACT ///

The Palestinian leadership condemned the bus bombing, but also attacked Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for ordering mass detentions, the demolition of houses, and curfews imposed on Palestinians.

Mr. Sharon insists the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat is responsible for the ongoing violence because of its refusal to disarm and arrest members of Palestinian militant groups, such as Hamas. (SIGNED)


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