Haifa bus blast kills 15

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The Independent Online

A suicide bomber detonated nail-studded explosives on a bus in the Israeli port of Haifa today, killing himself and at least 15 people.

The attack came less than 14 hours after Islamic militants set off three deadly explosions in Jerusalem. The Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Arafat convened an emergency meeting of his leadership, said aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh. The body "is about to take a very serious and urgent decision." He gave no details. Israel and the United States have been demanding from Arafat a sweeping campaign against the radical groups.

The Haifa blast went off about noon (10.00 GMT) Sunday. Police officials said the suicide bomber got on a city bus, paid the fare and within seconds detonated the explosives.

The front of the red-and-white bus was twisted and burned, its roof buckled upward and sides blown out.

Police officials said at least 14 bystanders were killed in the blast, in addition to the assailant. Police said 12 were killed in the bus and two were pedestrians who were crushed by the bus when the driver lost control. Rescue service spokesman Avi Zohar said about 40 people were wounded.

In a first step, Israeli further tightened its travel restrictions in the West Bank, barring cars with Palestinian license plates from driving on roads in areas under full or partial Israeli control. Troops also sealed all Palestinian-controlled towns, barring residents from leaving or entering.

In east Jerusalem, an Israel guard at a bank in the Arab section of Jerusalem shot and killed a Palestinian, police and Palestinian security officials said.