Five hurt in central Jerusalem suicide bomb

Click to follow

A suicide bomber set off explosives outside a central Jerusalem hotel during morning rush hour on Wednesday, killing himself, lightly hurting two bystanders and further rattling a nation already edgy after a wave of deadly weekend attacks.

The explosion followed two days of Israeli military strikes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that left two Palestinians dead and more than 100 injured. Three missiles hit just 50 meters from Yasser Arafat's office in the West Bank town of Ramallah, though Israel said the Palestinian leader was not the target.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's blast which went off just after 7:35 am. The assailant had explosives packed with nails and bolts strapped to his body and was crossing the street near the David Citadel Hotel when he detonated the bomb, said Police Chief Mickey Levy. Two people who had been waiting at a nearby bus stop were lightly hurt.

Blood covered a front wall of the hotel, near the walled Old City's Jaffa Gate, and police closed the area to search for more explosives. US envoy Anthony Zinni – who came to the region last month in hopes of jump­starting peace talks – was staying at a nearby hotel.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Ziad Abu Zayyad condemned the attack and said such bombings "cause great damage to the Palestinian national interest."

Palestinian security officials said they now had 151 suspected militants in custody, including members of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad group and a radical PLO faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The figure was up by 20 from the number of detainees being given on Tuesday, though it was not clear whether arrests continued after the Israeli air strikes Tuesday.

The strikes were Israel's response to suicide attacks by Islamic militants that killed 25 people in Jerusalem and the northern port city of Haifa over the weekend and brought the Israeli–Palestinian conflict to a new crisis point. Israel said its reprisals were a warning to Arafat to stop terrorism.

There were conflicting indications about what Israel might do next. Palestinians braced for further strikes and the military said it was ready to continue, but an Israeli official held out the possibility of a pause.