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Israeli cabinet considers response to bus bombing

car bomb
Video shot by an amateur in Hadera, Israel, shows the mangled remains of the car that carried the explosives, top, and the damaged bus, hurled into the window of a bakery across the street  

Fionnuala Sweeney on the scene of the Hadera bombing

Blast follows killings of 4 Palestinians in Gaza

In this story:

Glass, metal, bodies litter street

Death toll mounts

Israel vows retaliation


CNN Correspondents Mike Hanna, Jerrold Kessel and Tom Mintier contributed to this report.

HADERA, Israel (CNN) -- Israeli ministers are to meet to discuss their response to the bombing of an Israeli bus in which at least two people died and 55 were injured.

The Israeli government has already warned that it intends to "settle its accounts" with the bombers.

U.S. officials have condemned the bus attack in Hadera, while the Israeli Security Cabinet met on Wednesday night to decide what action to take, though the outcome of the meeting was not immediately available.

No-one has claimed responsibility for the Hadera attack.

Witnesses said a car bomb exploded alongside the bus as it pulled out of a central depot in Hadera, a town in northern Israel. The explosion hurled the bus across the street and into the window of a bakery.

"We condemn this act of terror and call on the Palestinian Authority to do everything it can to prevent such acts and resume security cooperation," U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Wednesday.

graphic Scenes of Middle East violence (November 22)
CNN's Jerrold Kessel reports on the bomb attack on an Israeli bus and the shooting of four Palestinians

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Israeli Government spokesman Nachman Shai reacts to the bus bombing in Hadera on Wednesday

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Palestinian spokesman Nabil Aburudenei rejects accusations that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the bombing

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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office said the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Yasser Arafat, were responsible for the "barbaric attack" on Israeli citizens.

The Palestinian Authority, however, denied any responsibility and, in turn, blamed Israel for the violence.

Glass, metal, bodies litter street

The bomb went off about 5:20 p.m. (1520 GMT). The blast littered the street with glass, metal, body parts and victims shoes.

"The whole bus flew in the air from the explosion," a witness, identified only as Shmuel, told Israel radio. "The whole floor of the bus buckled."

The blast left the car a twisted pile of smoking metal. Several nearby stores caught fire. Rescue teams used a power saw to extricate passengers from the bus.

"I saw people scattered on the ground, people without limbs," Benny Tapiro, a photo shop employee, told The Associated Press.

"I saw a baby on the ground and his father was near him, and injured in the back. I gave him over to the ambulance crew," Tapiro, 22, said.

Death toll mounts

The blast pushed the death toll during nearly two months of violence between Palestinians and Israelis to more than 270 -- the vast majority of them Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.

A few hours before the blast in Hadera, four Palestinians were shot to death near a Jewish settlement in Gaza. Arafat's Fatah faction was quoted as saying it would avenge the deaths.

Ambulance workers remove the body of the one of the four Palestinians killed Wednesday when Israeli soldiers near a Jewish settlement in Gaza shot at two cars  

"Fatah stresses that the blood of its sons will not be wasted. The response will be hard and painful. This ugly massacre carried out in cold blood will not pass without punishment," Fatah said in a statement reported by Reuters.

The Palestinians acknowledged that one of the dead, identified as Jamal al-Qadr Hassan al-Razaq, had been a Fatah administration official, but denied he had been a militiaman.

Israeli officials said the four were Palestinian militants who had been responsible for attacks against Israelis, and that they had been shot while trying to pass through an Israeli roadblock. Palestinian leaders said the four were innocent civilians who had been killed in cold blood

On Monday, two Israeli Jews were killed while riding in a school bus that was hit by a bomb in an Israeli-controlled corridor through Palestinian territory. Five children were wounded.

Three pro-Palestinian groups claimed responsibility for that attack: Palestinian Hezbollah, al-Aqsa Martyrs and Omar al-Mukhtar. The Palestinian Authority denied any responsibility for that blast.

Albright said Israel and the Palestinians should implement measures they agreed upon last month during a summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to try and secure peace.

"Unless the commitments necessary to end the violence are carried out in a way that is sustainable and mutually reinforcing, it will be difficult for the parties to change the realities on the ground," Albright said.

"For the Palestinian Authority, this means ending shootings against Israelis, creating buffers between demonstrators and the (Israel Defense Forces), ending incitement to violence and arresting those responsible for terrorism," she said.

"For the Israelis, this means withdrawing their forces to positions prior to the onset of the crisis, ending the economic restrictions against Palestinians and restraining their use of force," Albright added.

Israel warns of retribution

The Israeli government warned prior to Wednesday's Cabinet meeting that the bombers would face retribution.

"There are enough Palestinian terrorists that are moving freely" after the Palestinian Authority released dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants from jails earlier this fall, Israeli government spokesman Nachman Shai told CNN.

Madeleine Albright
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright condemns the bomb attack  

"Sooner or later we'll have to find the people responsible for that attack ... and we'll have to retaliate," he said. "The blame falls on Arafat's shoulders. He is the one who initiated this crisis. He started the violence two months ago."

Arafat spokesman Nabil Aburudenei said the Israeli accusations were absolutely wrong.

"They know very well that this is not a true story. They know that they have full responsibility on their land," he told CNN.

Aburudenei also said that Israel has prevented the free movement of Palestinians between their own towns and into and out of Israeli territory since the latest spate of violence began on September 28.

"We have been under siege for the last eight weeks," he said. "How could they go to that area while we are under siege? Even our officials are forbidden from moving."

Two Israelis dead, 9 injured in Gaza bombing
November 20, 2000
Ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence decreases, Israeli army says
November 19, 2000
Israel threatens retaliation for soldier's death
November 18, 2000
Arafat: 'Exerting every effort' to end violence
November 17, 2000
U.S. pushes for diplomatic end to Mideast fighting
November 16, 2000
Israel closes borders with Palestinian-ruled areas after more deaths
November 13, 2000
U.S. names Mitchell to head Mideast fact-finding commission vessel
November 7, 2000

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