Suicide bomber kills eight on Jerusalem bus


A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on a crowded Israeli bus in Jerusalem today, killing eight people and wounding another 60.

The explosion turned the green bus into a charred skeleton at a busy intersection near the Inbal Hotel, where leaders of major US Jewish organisations were meeting.

The bodies of some of the victims of today's suicide bombing in Jerusalem are laid out by emergency workers
The bodies of some of the victims of today's suicide bombing in Jerusalem are laid out by emergency workers

The World Court starts hearings in The Hague tomorrow on the legality of a West Bank barrier that Israel says keeps suicide bombers out, but which Palestinians call a land grab.

"If there was a fence around Jerusalem there would not have been an attack today," said Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie condemned the attack but said it showed the barrier would not give Israel security.

The Palestinian militant group al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades,  part of President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement which called the barrier "a Nazi wall which will not stop us attacking".

It named the bomber as Mohammed Zaal, a 23-year-old from a village near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, and said the attack was a reaction to the barrier and to an Israeli army raid that killed 15 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on February 11th.

Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy said the bomber blew up in the middle of the bus during the morning rush hour at the start of the Israeli work week, killing seven people and wounding 60. Police said the bomb was packed with metal shards to make it more deadly.

A Palestinian suicide bomber last struck in Jerusalem on January 29th, killing 11 people on a bus. Israel has sent the wreckage of that vehicle to The Hague as part of its public relations offensive for the World Court hearings.          

The International Court of Justice in The Hague is due to start three days of hearings tomorrow on the legality of the barrier of wire and concrete that Israel is building inside the West Bank.

About 180 km (110 miles) of the planned 728 km (452 miles) has been built. Construction continues near Jerusalem.

Palestinians call the project an attempt to seal a hold on land that Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war and where they want a state.

 The Hague court will issue a non-binding opinion at the request of the United Nations. Israel has made a written submission, but will not attend the proceedings.