- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

JERUSALEM A Palestinian university student killed at least 19 Israelis two of them schoolchildren and wounded more than 50 when he blew himself up on a crowded bus in Jerusalem yesterday, the worst attack in the city in six years.
The militant Hamas group took responsibility for the early morning nail-studded bomb attack carried out by Mohammed Haza el-Rol, a 22-year-old student at al-Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus.
The blast came as the bus packed with schoolchildren made its way through the suburb of Gilo on the south side of Jerusalem.
In its initial response to the attack, the Israeli government early today declared that it will retake parts of the West Bank and hold them as long as terror attacks continue.
A statement issued after late-night consultations between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his top Cabinet ministers said Israel's actions would include "a change in the way Israel responds to murderous acts of terror."
The statement said Israel would capture and hold Palestinian Authority territory "as long as terror continues."
Israeli forces moved unopposed into the huge Jenin refugee camp, scene of the bloodiest fighting of Israel's spring offensive, and into the West Bank city of Nablus.
The Israeli prime minister, mindful that President Bush is expected to lay out a framework on how to create an independent Palestinian state in a major address on the Middle East this week, made his first visit to the scene of a suicide bombing since he came to office.
Standing near body bags lined up nearby, Mr. Sharon blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the attack and declared his opposition to any idea of creating a Palestinian state soon.
"This terrible thing that we are seeing is the continuation of the Palestinian terror, and we must fight and struggle against this terror, and this is what we will do," Mr. Sharon said.
"The terrible pictures we see here are stronger than every word. It's interesting to speculate what kind of Palestinian state they want. What are they talking about?"
In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Mr. Bush condemned the attack in the "strongest possible terms," but it was not clear whether it would delay the president's plans to issue his proposal for Palestinian statehood.
El-Rol, a graduate student and resident of the Al Faraa refugee camp whose farewell letter said he had attempted two previous suicide attacks, was hailed as a "martyr" by his 65-year-old father, Haza.
To commit the attack, he had to navigate through heightened security installed in the city the previous day after security forces received warnings that a suicide bomber was planning an attack. Police said they were still sweeping the area for a second attacker.
"The bus left the stop, and as soon as it entered traffic there was a very large explosion, and all the parts [of the bus] flew everywhere," said Shlomi Calderon, who saw the blast.
"There was complete shock in the area. It was horrible, horrible. All of the bus's parts flew everywhere in a radius of 150 [yards]."
The explosion, the deadliest attack in the city since 26 persons were killed in a bus explosion on Feb. 25, 1996, left the victims frozen in a macabre spectacle visible from outside the burned bus.
Inside, the 51-year-old driver sat dead in his seat with his hands still on the steering wheel. A young woman, also killed, sat upright in her seat.
Mr. Sharon last night convened his security chiefs to prepare what was expected to be a tough response to the bombing in spite of a condemnation of the attack issued by Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian organization pledged to "find and stop anyone attempting to carry out operations."
Palestinians in the West Bank city of Ramallah began hoarding food in anticipation of an Israeli retaliation that analysts predicted would be similar to Israel's attack on Mr. Arafat's headquarters.


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