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Mideast toll rises after bombings

Israeli medics treat a wounded man early Sunday at the scene of bombings in Jerusalem.  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The death toll is climbing in the Middle East, where an Israeli settler and two Palestinian gunmen were killed Sunday.

Those casualties follow a night of violence that saw at least 10 innocent bystanders die and more than 180 wounded in a series of attacks that also killed two suicide bombers in a crowded pedestrian mall in central Jerusalem.

Police said two bombs were detonated near Zion Square just before midnight Saturday by at least two bombers. A third explosion about 10 minutes later came from a car bomb, timed to explode as rescue workers arrived to tend to the casualties.

All those killed were young men, aged 14 to 20, authorities said. The mall had been crowded with mostly young people who came out after sundown marked the end of the Sabbath.

At least 19 people were critically injured, 28 moderately injured, and the rest were lightly injured, they said.

A witness said the car bomb exploded in a vehicle parked outside an ice cream parlor. Stores and restaurants were badly damaged in the blast.

Three explosions tore through the entrance to a crowded pedestrian mall in central Jerusalem late Saturday (December 1)

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President Bush statement on bombings 
Statement from U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni 
Reaction from world leaders 
Gallery: Blasts rock Jerusalem mall 
Map: Scene of terror attacks 
In-Depth: Mideast Struggle for Peace 
Message Board: Mideast violence 

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat says Arafat would be ready to resume negotiations.
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Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner talks to CNN's Jerrold Kessel at the scene of the bombings
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"This is the worst attack on Jerusalem that has ever happened," said Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner.

Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator, said Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat condemns the attacks "in the strongest possible terms."

On Sunday morning, the Israeli army reported two Palestinian gunmen were shooting between two settlements in northern Gaza. One Israeli settler was shot dead, the Israeli army said.

After pursuing them, the army killed both gunmen, an Israeli army spokesman said.

Palestinian witnesses in the village of Abu Dis, on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem, said Sunday morning a number of Palestinians were taken into custody there in the wake of the bombings.

There was no official comment from Israel about how that related to the attacks.

In the United States, President Bush issued a strong statement from his retreat at Camp David.

"I was horrified and saddened to learn of the bombings that took place tonight in Jerusalem. I strongly condemn them as acts of murder than no person of conscience can tolerate and no cause can ever justify.

On behalf of the American people, I extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, to my friend, Prime Minister Sharon and to all the people of Israel," the president said.

"Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority must immediately find and arrest those responsible for these hideous murders. They must also act swiftly and decisively against the organizations that support them. Now more than ever, Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority must demonstrate through their actions and not merely their words their commitment to fight terror," Bush's statement concluded.

The terrorist attacks prompted Bush to move up a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from Monday to Sunday. Bush will leave Camp David and return to the White House for the noon meeting, a senior administration official said. The president also called Sharon late Saturday to express his condolences and to tell Sharon he looked forward to meeting with him, the official said.

Israeli officials said Sharon will return to Israel immediately after the meeting.

Erakat said Arafat immediately convened an emergency meeting of his security advisers, and spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and retired U.S. Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni about the attack. Zinni is in the region to broker a ceasefire between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli police and paramedics watch a car burn after it exploded at a crowded pedestrian mall late Saturday in downtown Jerusalem.  

Zinni said he condemned "in the strongest possible terms the vicious and evil terrorist attacks in Jerusalem."

"I spoke with Chairman Arafat tonight and made absolutely clear that those responsible for planning and carrying out these attacks must be found and brought to justice," he said in a statement. "There can be no delay, no excuses for not acting right away ... These despicable actions can only be prevented if the Palestinians act in a comprehensive and sustained manner to root out terrorism and terrorists and bring them to justice."

Powell also strongly condemned the terrorist attacks.

"I have spoken to Chairman Arafat and have made absolutely clear that these despicable and cowardly actions must be brought to an end through immediate, comprehensive and sustained action by the Palestinian Authority against both the individuals responsible and the infrastructure of the groups that support them," he said in a statement.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Islamic militant groups, however, have threatened to commit attacks in Jerusalem to avenge the killing of a Hamas military leader last week by an Israeli missile attack.

Pazner said there's no need to wait for a claim of responsibility for the terrorist attacks.

"We don't need a claim for responsibility, we know who's responsible: the responsible is Arafat, who has done nothing to stop terrorism all these years," he said.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also put the onus on the Palestinian leader, saying he was "squarely responsible."

destroyed car
Israeli police, border police and firefighters search through the rubble of the car bomb in Jerusalem.  

"I think it's time to unmask this fraud and tell Arafat what you [the United States] are telling the Taliban in Afghanistan, 'Surrender terrorism or surrender power,'" Netanyahu told CNN.

Erakat said the Palestinians had been trying their best to sustain the ceasefire.

"We don't condone the killing of Israeli or Palestinian civilians, but we all know that violence brings violence, assassinations bring assassinations. We need immediately to get back to the political track," he said.

Israeli Cabinet Member Dan Meridor said Arafat was not a suitable peace partner if he could not control the violence.

The attacks came on the heels of the arrest of more than a dozen members of the radical Islamic Jihad group after the group claimed responsibility for two suicide attacks in Israel this week. Palestinian authorities said many of the arrests occurred on the West Bank, including the arrest of Mohammed al-Hindi, a top operative of the group.

One of the attacks took place Thursday, when a Palestinian suicide bomber killed three Israelis on a bus near an Israeli army base in northern Israel.

Israel and the United States have demanded that Arafat crack down on Islamic militant groups that have killed hundreds of Israelis in dozens of attacks in recent years.

Pazner promised Israel "will certainly react" to this latest attack and will not remain "passive."

Sharon spokesman Raanan Gissin agreed.

"After such an attack, we have the full right to exercise right to self defense and take measures ... I can assure you that there will be a response ... The time for declaration has ended," he said.

The Palestinian representative to the United States, Hassan Abdel Rahman, condemned the killings of civilians.

"But having said that, we have also got to condemn the conditions that lead people to desperation. What are those conditions? It is Israelis' occupation that have lasted for 35 years. That leads people to do despicable and desperate actions sometimes," he said.

In his meeting Wednesday with Zinni, Arafat said he was prepared to devote 100 percent of his efforts to stop ongoing violence on the Palestinian side.


• Israeli government
• Palestine Red Crescent Society
• Israel Defense Forces
• Palestinian Authority

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