Suicide car-bomb attack kills 14 in Israel

At least 14 people were killed in northern Israel yesterday when Palestinian suicide bombers detonated a car bomb alongside a bus crowded with passengers. Witnesses described watching helplessly as the bus caught fire with passengers still trapped inside.

At least 14 people were killed in northern Israel yesterday when Palestinian suicide bombers detonated a car bomb alongside a bus crowded with passengers. Witnesses described watching helplessly as the bus caught fire with passengers still trapped inside.

More than 40 people were injured in the attack near the coastal city of Hadera. One person was in critical condition last night. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, according to a Hizbollah television station in Lebanon.

Israeli police said they believed the attack had been carried out by two suicide bombers, who drove a jeep full of explosives up to the side of the bus as it waited at a stop, and detonated it, a tactic Palestinian militants have not used often. The two bombers were believed to have died.

"I was reading a book. The blast was so powerful that I flew out of the seat," Michael Yitzhaki told Israeli army radio. "I looked to the rear and I automatically got out of the bus ­ and quick. The bus went up in flames in seconds. There were explosions non-stop and the flare-up was so fast that I couldn't understand how. It looks like the fuel tank was hit first. The flames ate up the bus with amazing speed, and with the ammunition [of soldiers on board] going off as well, we didn't manage to get back inside to save anyone. It was pretty difficult watching people who we couldn't help any more."

Ingrid Aharoni said: "One soldier in the back of the bus jumped from the window. Two people, I don't know if they were alive or not, their bodies burnt up in the fire."

Israel is almost certain to respond butthe US has been urging restraint while the White House lobbies Arab support for war against Iraq. Yasser Arafat said his Palestinian leadership was "opposed to attacks against Palestinian and Israeli civilians".

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