Officials: Suicide bomber injures 21 in Israel
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Twenty-one people were wounded Sunday, two seriously, in a suicide bombing at a central bus station in the southern Israeli town of Beersheba, Israeli officials said.
It was the first such attack by Palestinian militants since Israel's historic pullout from Gaza and the West Bank.
The bombing occurred about 8:30 a.m. outside a bus during the morning rush hour when a man detonated his explosives.
Security guards at the bus station were approaching him to check him out, thinking he looked suspicious, when the explosion occurred, police said.
"Israel has taken the necessary steps to advance the peace process," said an official in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office, referring to the Israeli withdrawal from settlements in Gaza and the West Bank.
"The Palestinians have not. Without such steps, there will be no progress."
The two people that were seriously wounded in Sunday's blast were the security guards nearest the bomber, police said.
Hours after the bomb blast, the Israeli cabinet voted 18-2 to allow Egyptian troops to guard the Gaza-Egypt border, another step toward ending Israel's decades-long military presence in Gaza.
Bomber identifed by two groups
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed joint responsibility for Sunday's bombing, effectively rejecting calls by Palestinian leaders for an end to attacks.
The two groups identified the bomber as Ayman Za'aqiq from the town of Beit Umar on the West Bank.
The bombing took place three days after Israeli troops killed five Palestinians. Islamic Jihad vowed retribution for that incident. (Full story)
Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called a "terrorist attack" and called for "calm and restraint in spite of the Israeli provocations, the most recent being the killing of five Palestinians," in a statement carried by Wafa, the official news agency of the Palestinian Authority.
"The president is also calling on the Israeli side to keep the calm and the ceasefire and stop the military actions against the Palestinians, as the ceasefire and calm is in the interests of both sides and in the interest of peace," the statement said.
The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack, said Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator. He called upon all to "exert maximum effort in order to maintain the truce" between Israelis and Palestinians.
CNN's Shira Meddings contributed to this report.
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