Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - A suicide bomber broke the daytime norm and blew himself up on an Israeli inter-city bus, killing three and wounding at least nine others late Thursday evening shortly before Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was due to leave Israel on his way to the U.S. to meet with President Bush and other administration officials.
The bus, which was traveling from the northern Israeli city of Nazareth to Tel Aviv, was completely destroyed in the blast. Because of the hour of the attack not many passengers were riding on the bus. The driver managed to walk away from the mangled bus, which was splattered with blood and flesh, with only light injuries.
The bomber, who was also killed, boarded the bus, girded with the bomb at the northern Israeli Arab city of Umm el-Fahm, first reports say.
Speaking from the airport, Sharon said he would continue on his trip to the U.S., where he is scheduled to meet with the president on Monday.
He noted that in the last three days since special U.S. envoy Ret. Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni came to the region to try to press Israel and the Palestinian Authority into implementing a ceasefire, seven Israelis have been killed in terror attacks.
Earlier Thursday, Yaron Pikoltz, a 20-year-old soldier was killed in a drive-by shooting. Two days ago, three Israelis were killed in a Palestinian terrorist shooting rampage in Afula.
Sharon reiterated that Israel would not hold "any kind of negotiations until there is quiet and Arafat stops the terror."
The Palestinian Authority condemned the bus bombing.
"The Palestinian leadership condemns the attack on Israeli civilians and the Authority reaffirms that it is working in its full capacity to put an end to all sorts of attacks against Israeli civilians," a PA spokesman was quoted as saying.
The PA also vowed "to chase the perpetrators and bring them to justice."
But Sharon is sticking to the demand that there be a seven-day period of calm before Israel moves forward in the implementation of the Mitchell recommendations. Earlier on Thursday, Sharon said he wanted to see "100 percent effort and deeds."
Zinni, who spent Thursday holding separate meetings with Israeli and PA security officials, condemned the attack.
"I have offered my personal condolences to Prime Minister Sharon as I did after the Afula attack," he said in a late-night statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. "My deepest sympathies are extended to the families of those victims of terror who died, and I wish to express my concern to those injured and their families.
"These vicious terror attacks must stop now if we are to create the environment that leads to peace," he said.
See Earlier Story
Sharon Heads to US to Discuss Iraq, Palestinians (November 29, 2001)