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Bomb kills 19 on Israeli bus

Rescue workers remove a body from the bombing site after Tuesday's attack.
Rescue workers remove a body from the bombing site after Tuesday's attack.  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Nineteen people were killed Tuesday in a Palestinian suicide bomb attack on a rush hour bus.

The terror attack occurred when the bus "is usually filled with people on the way to work," Israeli police spokesman Gil Kleiman told CNN.

At least 15 of the 19 dead were from the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem, according to Israel's Ha'aretz news Web site.

Television images showed the top of the bus peeled off and all the windows blown out.

Rescue workers covered the dead with black plastic bags and placed them on a sidewalk. "Where is my sister? Where is my sister?" a woman screamed as volunteers collected remains, The Associated Press reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the scene of the bombing and told reporters, "The horrible pictures we saw here today of these murderous acts by the Palestinians are stronger than any words. This terrible act -- the continuation of the Palestinian terrorism -- it is this terrorism that we have to fight, and that is what we shall do."

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The Palestinian Authority disavowed the attack.

"The Palestinian Authority ... retains its position of not condoning the killing of civilians -- Palestinians and Israelis," said Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator. "We reject any Israeli attempt to assign blame or finger-pointing at us. The Israelis have done nothing in the last 21 months but destroy our ability [to go after the bombers]."

Israel, however, placed the blame on the Palestinian leadership, calling its statements "false condemnations."

"We see exactly what's going on," said Arye Mekel, an Israeli government spokesman. "Anytime that there's a chance for any resumption of the peace process ... this is what the Palestinians are doing."

The blast occurred at a busy intersection as the bus made its way from Gilo, a disputed Jewish neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The neighborhood is located on West Bank land Israel captured in the 1967 war, and Palestinians consider it occupied territory that belongs to the nearby Arab town of Beit Jala.

In Washington, Scott McClellan, a spokesman for President Bush, said, "The president condemns the act of terror in the strongest possible terms."

Bush to present plan for Palestinian statehood

Israel began construction Sunday on what is intended to be a 217-mile (350-kilometer) fence designed to keep suicide bombers out of Israel. The fence is being built along the unmarked border between Israel and the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 war.

The barrier is expected to be composed of fences, walls, ditches, patrol roads, and electronic surveillance devices. The first 68 miles (110 kilometers) of the $200 million project are expected to be completed within a year.

Bush, meanwhile, was preparing to lay out his plan to bring about Palestinian statehood and help with Israel's security.

The London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat, quoting a high-ranking Egyptian official, reported Tuesday that Bush will call for an independent Palestinian state, recognized by the United Nations, in order to establish that negotiations take place between two nations. (Full story)

But the latest suicide bombing could complicate Bush's plans to unveil a vision for easing Middle East tensions.

"What Palestinian state are they intending?" Sharon asked Tuesday. "What Palestinian state are they talking about?"

-- CNN Correspondent Sheila MacVicar and CNN Producer Michal Zippori contributed to this report.




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