Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - At least 16 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded in Jerusalem on Wednesday, when a suicide bomber disguised as a religious Jew boarded a crowded rush-hour bus near the center of the city and blew up what was described as a large bomb.
The long metal siding of bus number 14 was some 50 yards from where the shattered hulk of the bus stopped. All the windows were blown out, and the roof of the bus was buckled as if someone had folded the bus in half lengthwise.
Rivka Bedein was standing across the street from where the bus exploded.
"I was walking on the street and heard a big, big explosion," said Bedein, who celebrated her 20th birthday on Tuesday. She turned around and saw things, she said, that "nobody should ever see."
"A person flew out of the window [halfway]. There was a body under the bus [and] people jumping out of the bus [burning]. A woman was screaming, 'My mother was supposed to come off that bus,'" she said. "I've never, ever been so close to dead people."
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat said he "strongly condemned the terrorist attack that targeted Israeli civilians today in Jerusalem." He also condemned that Israeli-targeted attack in the Gaza Strip.
PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas called on both Israel and Palestinian militants to stop "this deterioration" by all parties complying with "a cease-fire and end violence and to start serious efforts to implement the road map."
Hamas' spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, claimed that the attack in Jerusalem was in revenge for the attempt to assassinate Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi and said the retaliation would continue.
But Israeli government spokesman Danny Seaman said there was no way an Israeli missile attack on Rantisi was linked to the terror attack.
"It has nothing to do with Rantisi," said Seaman at the site of the attack.
"There have been 1,000 days of terror against Israeli civilians that have nothing to do with Rantisi or with the Israeli action. These organizations are bent on the destruction of the State of Israel, so as long as they exist, it doesn't matter. The attack against Rantisi is to prevent these kind of things," Seaman said.
Israeli helicopters fired two missiles at Rantisi's car as he traveled in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, but he and his son managed to escape with shrapnel wounds. Palestinians said three civilians were killed in the air strike.
President Bush condemned the attack on Rantisi, saying he was concerned it would "make it more difficult for the Palestinian leadership to fight off terrorist attacks" and would not help Israel's security.
Rantisi vowed from his hospital bed following the attack that Hamas would "not leave one Jew in Palestine." Earlier this week, Hamas had already vowed to continue terror attacks.
Following the Jerusalem bus bombing, eight Palestinians, among them two top Hamas militants, were reported killed when an Israeli helicopter fired two missiles at a car in the Gaza Strip.
Tito Massoud, who was a main figure behind the manufacturing of Qassam rockets, which have been fired at southern Israel and within the Gaza Strip, was killed in the strike. He was also involved in launching the rockets, security sources said.
Suhil Abu Nahal was also killed in the attack. He was accused of being a close aid to two top Hamas militants: Yehiye Ayash, a top Hamas bomb maker before his death, and Mohammed Deif. Nahal was responsible for a wave of terror attacks in 1999 in which dozens of Israelis were killed, security sources said.
But security sources said there was no connection between the bombing and the action in the Gaza Strip against Rantisi or on Wednesday.
Pointing to the timing of the attack in Jerusalem, the sources said that it takes more than 24 hours to "plan, dispatch or even carry out" a terror attack.
They also said that since the declarations were made in the tri-lateral summit between President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Abbas in Aqaba a week ago, Israel has thwarted 10 attempts to carry out suicide bomb attacks.
According to the army spokesman, since the Palestinian intifadah began in September 2000, 243 Israeli civilians have been murdered and more than 1400 others wounded in Hamas suicide bombings.
Another 44 were killed and some 400 others wounded in other attacks carried out by Hamas.
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