Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel will employ whatever means are necessary to fight terrorism, an Israeli official said, after a car bomb blew up next to a civilian bus, killing at least 14 and wounding at more than 50 others.
The number 841 Egged bus left the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shemona in the mid-afternoon on its way to Tel Aviv and was carrying about 30 passengers when a four-wheel-drive vehicle carrying two suicide terrorists and packed with 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives blew up alongside the bus's fuel tank causing the bus to explode and burst into flames.
"We have a car bomb that explode[d] beside a bus not far from Hadera in northern Israel," police spokesman Ofer Sivan said.
The ensuing fire burned for at least 20 minutes leaving barely a skeleton left standing across the road. Recovery workers could be seen combing the remnants of the bus for bits of human remains.
Police are now saying that at least 14 people were killed, but are cautioning that the number may rise. Due to the force of the blast and the fire, it has been very difficult to identify the dead. Among the more than 50 wounded are at least five in very serious condition, including a two-year-old girl.
According to Sivan, there were general warnings of attacks but no specific warnings of a terrorist strike on this particular bus, road or in the area.
Channel 2 television reported that there have been 49 specific warnings of terror attacks in the last two weeks, 32 of which have been thwarted.
There have been numerous suicide bomb attacks where a lone bomber boarded a bus with a bomb and blew up himself and the bus, but this is only the second time that a car bomb has been used to blow up a bus.
In June, a terrorist who learned to drive for the purpose of the attack rammed a packed civilian bus killing 17.
Speaking from his hospital bed in a television interview, bus driver Haim Avraham said he had stopped at a bus stop to pick up a passenger.
"The passenger asked me if I was going to Hadera," Avraham said. "When he got to the second step [there was an explosion]. I flew from my seat [and] landed on my feet. I understood it was a bomb."
Some of those wounded were in vehicles, which were passing the bus at the time of the explosion.
One man said in a television interview from the hospital that he thought someone had run into the backend of his car until he looked behind and saw the fire.
Islamic Jihad Claims Responsibility
Hizballah's television station in Lebanon "Al-Manar" reported that Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Monday's attack, although it is not uncommon for other groups to make the same claim later.
The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack.
"We condemn on behalf of the Palestinian Authority this attack as much as we condemn the killing of civilians, whether they are Israelis or Palestinians," PA Minister Saeb Erekat was quoted as saying from Jericho.
"We reiterate that the only way to break this vicious cycle of violence is to restart a meaningful peace process," Erekat added.
An official in the Israeli prime minister's office said this was just another attempt to "kill and maim" Israelis.
"It is another example of vicious Palestinian terror," said the official. "Once against it struck at innocent Israelis. We are determined to wipe out this terror using every means we see fit."
The official refused to speculate on a possible Israeli response, but following the last bus bombing in September in Tel Aviv, Israeli tanks and bulldozers roared into Ramallah and knocked down most of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's headquarters.
Arafat and a number of Palestinians wanted for deep involvement in terror attacks remained holed up in Arafat's office building for a week, before U.S. and international pressure forced Israeli troops to withdrawal.
Israel had demanded that Arafat hand over Palestinians involved in planning and carrying out terror attacks, including his intelligence chief Tawfik Tirawi.
This time analysts say, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is limited by the international situation.
Sharon, who returned from a visit to Washington last week, has promised President Bush, to maintain the status quo and not to do anything that could disrupt the administration's plans for an offensive against Iraq, the analysts say.
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