Bomb kills 2, wounds 39 at bus stop near Tel Aviv
TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- A suicide bomber killed himself and another man on Sunday in an attack at a bus stop outside Tel Aviv that wounded 39 others.
The bombing occurred in suburban Kfar Saba, northeast of Tel Aviv, as a crowd waited for the morning bus into the city.
"The bomber was waiting for the bus," a witness told CNN. "Many people were waiting at the stop. As the bus pulled in, he simply blew himself up. It was a massive blast."
Israeli officials said a 53-year-old doctor died along with the bomber in the attack.
Israel has been on high alert for months for possible bombings and suicide attacks by militants as the Palestinian uprising rages in Gaza and the West Bank. Kfar Saba, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Tel Aviv, is near Israel's border with the West Bank and has been a frequent target of Palestinian militant attacks.
A Palestinian group calling itself the Popular Army Front- Return Battalions claimed responsibility for the bombing in a written statement sent to Reuters. But Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon placed the blame for Sunday's attack on the Palestinian Authority, saying it had failed to restrain militant Palestinian groups.
"The Palestinian Authority is responsible for terror, and we hold it responsible also for the criminal act that happened today," Sharon told reporters in Jerusalem.
The accusation brought a swift denial from Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a top aide to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.
"The Palestinian Authority rejects Israeli accusations that it is responsible for the explosion," Rahim said.
Ziad Abu Zayyad, a Palestinian Cabinet minister, said the Palestinian Authority condemns "any attack on civilians, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian." But he said Israeli attacks on Palestinian towns are "encouraging extremism and violence."
The bomb went off after a meeting Saturday night between Israeli and Palestinian security officials, under U.S. prodding, with hopes that the talks could lead to a resumption of high-level contacts between the two sides. Also Sunday, Sharon convened his security Cabinet to address the escalating confrontation with the Palestinians.
The past week has been marked by a series of mortar bombardments of Israeli settlements within Gaza and nearby villages. Israeli forces have fired on Palestinian towns, and Israeli forces last week invaded a small portion of Gaza, a move that government officials said was aimed at stopping the mortar attacks.
"The security meetings were good, but it's clearly not enough," said Dore Gold, a Sharon adviser. "What's important is what happens on the ground, and what's happening on the ground is continuous violence against Israeli civilians."
The Israelis withdrew after the United States called the Israeli incursion into Gaza excessive and disproportionate, but Israel has moved against Palestinian positions in Gaza twice more since then.
CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.
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