- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 23, 2000

HADERA, Israel A car packed with nail-studded explosives blew up next to a crowded Israeli commuter bus yesterday, sending the bus flying into a building as victims writhed on the ground and nearby stores burst into flames.
Two Israelis died and more than 50 were hurt in the blast blamed on Palestinian militants, further dampening hopes for a near-term Israeli-Palestinian truce.
Israel said it ultimately held Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat responsible for the blast, and that it would retaliate. Prime Minister Ehud Barak convened his security Cabinet for an emergency session Wednesday evening to approve a response. In the past, Israel has rocketed Palestinian targets over the killings of civilians.
The bomb, made of homemade materials and apparently detonated by remote control, went off in downtown Hadera, a working-class town in northern Israel, at about 5:20 p.m. local time evening rush hour.
It detonated as the bus passed the rigged car, parked outside a pizza restaurant. The force of the blast propelled the bus across the sidewalk and then front first into a bakery.
One woman had both legs blown off below her knees. She was writhing in pain and still conscious when she was wheeled on a stretcher to an ambulance. A bystander pumped the chest of a man lying on the ground.
The pavement was littered with overturned cafe tables, shards of glass and metal and victims' shoes. Rescue teams used a power saw to extricate trapped and wounded passengers.
"I saw people scattered on the ground, people without limbs," said Benny Tapiro, 22, who works at a photo store a few yards from the blast site.
"I saw a baby on the ground and his father was near him and injured in the back. I gave him over to the ambulance crew," Mr. Tapiro said. The 2-year-old was taken to a nearby hospital.
Doctors and police said two persons were killed and 55 wounded, including three in serious condition. Two of those wounded were Israeli Arabs 1-year-old Thara Abu-Hussein and her father, Hussan Abu-Hussein, who was taking her for a routine health checkup when the bus blew up. Thara suffered second- and third-degree burns, while her father was in surgery and was listed in fair condition.
The blast turned the rigged car into a twisted pile of smoking metal and blew out the windows of the bus. Several nearby stores caught fire. Thick smoke rose into the air.
"The whole bus flew in the air from the explosion," a witness, identified as Shmuel, told Israel radio. "The whole floor of the bus buckled."
In Jerusalem, tens of thousands of Israelis attended a rally held by the hawkish opposition last night. Opposition leader Ariel Sharon, whose Sept. 28 visit to a contested Jerusalem shrine triggered the current round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, said the government must take much harsher action.
"We have to stop twisting and turning. Arafat is not a partner. Arafat is a cruel enemy," Mr. Sharon said. "It is not the people who are tired. It is this government which has gotten tired."
Mr. Barak, who heads a minority government, faces a new challenge next week when parliament votes on a bill to hold early elections. Mr. Sharon's harsh criticism of the government suggested he was rebuffing Mr. Barak's new overtures for his faction to join the coalition.
Mr. Barak said responsibility for the attack lay with the Palestinian Authority which, he said, "freed terrorists, members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and encourages and directs its people to carry out attacks."
The Palestinian Authority said it had nothing to do with the bombing. "We condemn in the strongest way the false accusations of the prime minister," Palestinian spokesman Marwan Kanafani said.

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