26 killed in day of violence in Israel

Sixteen people were killed in a suicide bombing on a bus in central Jerusalem yesterday. The Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, in which 93 people were injured.

The bomber, disguised as a religious Jew, got on bus 14 and detonated an explosive packed with nails a day after Hamas vowed retaliation for an attempt by Israel to assassinate a senior leader in its political wing. Palestinians identified the bomber as Abdel Madi Shabneh, 18, a high school student from Hebron.

Within minutes of the attack, an Israeli helicopter fired missiles at a car carrying two members of the Hamas military wing, Tito Massoud, 35, and Soheil Abu Nahel, 29, in the Shejaiyeh neighbourhood in the Gaza Strip. Witnesses said the helicopter fired a second time into a crowd of civilians who had gathered around the burning wreckage. Seven people were killed, including Massoud. Only two of the dead were believed to be militants. Thirty people were wounded.

In a separate incident last night, two militants from Hamas' Izz-el-Deen al- Qassam Brigades were killed in a missile strike in Gaza City.

The violence has left last week's Aqaba summit looking like a false dawn and the road-map peace plan, personally backed by President George Bush, in serious trouble. He condemned the bombing andcalled on the world to cut funding to Hamas.

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