Jerusalem suicide attack on bus kills 18

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The Independent Online

At least 18 people were killed and 100 injured, including 40 children, when a suicide bomber blew up a crowded bus in Jerusalem last night.

The bombing was one of the deadliest in Israel for three years and the first suicide attack there for two months. Shattering the ceasefire declared by Palestinian militants in June, it threatened to destroy the US road-map for peace.

Israel immediately froze all contact with the Palestinian Authority and called off the planned handover of two West Bank towns to Palestinian control.

The Israeli army also closed border crossings to seal off the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Early today, police increased patrols throughout Israel, setting up roadblocks on Jerusalem roads, questioning drivers, checking identifications and causing traffic jams.

The blast occurred at about 9pm local time when the bus was packed with Ultra-Orthodox Jews returning from the Western Wall. Police said the suicide bomber was disguised as an ultra-Orthodox Jew.

Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen condemned the attack and said it "cannot serve the interests of the Palestinian people."

The Palestinian Authority also decided to cut all dialogue with Islamic Jihad and Hamas and instead use security forces to take action against the groups in the coming days, a Palestinian official said. It was unclear what sort of action was planned.

Daniel Seaman, a government spokesman, said: "This is exactly what the peace process means to the Palestinians - the murder of children. Tonight they have ended the road-map, or at least this stage of it."

There were conflicting claims of responsibility from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Despite declaring a three-month ceasefire in June, Islamic Jihad vowed to avenge the killing of one of its leaders last week.

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