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Jerusalem terror attack kills 7

Second attack in city in two days; Bush speech on hold

Hospital workers assist a person wounded in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem on Wednesday.  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A suicide bombing at a bus stop in northeast Jerusalem on Wednesday evening killed seven people and wounded another 37, Israeli authorities said.

According to police, a car dropped off the bomber who then ran toward a bus stop where hitchhikers gather. A border police officer saw him running and gave chase: The bomber set off the blast as the officer approached him, police said.

"It is another carnage, another brutal attack on innocent people who were standing, waiting for a bus," said Israeli government spokesman Arye Mekel. (More on attack scene)

Mekel said the intersection -- located in the French Hill neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem -- had been the scene of attacks in the past and there is a military presence there around the clock.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack, sources said. The group, a military offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

In response, Israeli helicopter gunships fired on targets in Gaza, including the city of Gaza and the Jabaliya and Khan Yunis refugee camps. At least 13 people were reported wounded by shrapnel in Gaza City, hospital sources said.

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Shortly after the airstrikes began, Arafat called on Palestinians to "completely stop" attacks against Israelis, saying they were being used by Israel as a pretext for seizing Palestinian land. (More on Arafat statement)

Later, about a dozen Israeli military vehicles rolled into Ramallah -- the town where Arafat's headquarters is located -- and took up positions in two areas of the city as Israeli infantry forces patrolled the streets, Palestinian security sources said.

The sources said nine armored personnel carriers and two jeeps entered from the southwest. Other eyewitnesses reported seeing four armored vehicles entering from the north.

Bush delays Mideast speech

Wednesday's blast was the second terror attack in Jerusalem in two days: On Tuesday, 19 people were killed and more than 50 wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his charge on a bus. The Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for that attack, according to Hamas sources in Gaza. (Full story)

In response, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government announced it would respond to acts of terror by seizing Palestinian Authority territory and holding it "as long as terror continues."

Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told CNN that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority condemn the attack. He said only if the political process is revived and negotiations resume will the attacks stop.

"Sharon and his army control the West Bank, and still these things happen," Erakat said.

In Washington, President Bush's speech laying out his vision for the Middle East -- including some form of Palestinian statehood -- is "on hold" because of the latest suicide bombing, the White House said. The speech had been planned for late this week, possibly Thursday. (Full story)

In a related development, Palestinian sources said the Palestinian Authority was dropping its demand for the right of return for Palestinian refugees -- one of the major stumbling blocks to a Middle East peace deal. (Full story)

Israel to seize land 'as long as terror continues'

Statement from Sharon's office:
"Following Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's discussions with the leaders of the political parties in the coalition and top security establishment officials, it was decided to take several military actions against the Palestinian Authority and the murderous organizations. This includes -- inter alia -- a change in the way Israel responds to murderous acts of terror: Israel will respond to acts of terror by capturing PA territory. These areas will be held by Israel as long as terror continues. Additional acts of terror will lead to the taking of additional areas. As a result of yesterday's murderous act of terror in Jerusalem, Israel will shortly take PA territory as outlined above."

Israel's new policy of seizing Palestinian territory was announced early Wednesday after Sharon met with top government officials.

"Israel will respond to acts of terror by capturing P.A. territory. These areas will be held by Israel as long as terror continues," a statement from Sharon's office said. "Additional acts of terror will lead to the taking of additional areas. As a result of yesterday's murderous act of terror in Jerusalem, Israel will shortly take P.A. territory as outlined above."

Nabil Sha'ath, a top Arafat adviser, condemned the policy as one of "straightforward invasion and aggression."

"Israel is keeping Palestinians trapped in a revolving door of reoccupation," Sha'ath, currently in Washington, said Wednesday.

Israeli military activity was reported overnight in Jenin, Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem, and Qalqilya after Tuesday's suicide bombing.

Sha'ath met with several White House officials Tuesday, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, to discuss Palestinian peace proposals and efforts to reform the Palestinian Authority.

Another Palestinian official said the Israeli strategy is "not new policy" and called on the international community for help.

"The only way out of it is an initiative to come from the international community led by the United States ... with some political weight behind such initiatives in order to enforce it," said Ghassan Khatib, the Palestinian labor minister.




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