JERUSALEM -- A bomb exploded Wednesday in a crowded Hebrew University cafeteria frequented by Jewish, Arab and foreign students, killing at least seven people and wounding more than 70.
Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of the militant Hamas group, linked the bombing to Israel's air strike in Gaza last week that killed Hamas military commander Salah Shehadeh and 14 civilians, including nine children.
The lunchtime blast shattered windows, overturned tables and left pools of blood in the university's Frank Sinatra International Student Center, a place where students of various backgrounds mingled freely. The school is considered a rare enclave of tolerance after almost two years of Mideast fighting. There was no immediate word on the nationalities of the casualties.
Witnesses initially said they believed a suicide bomber was responsible, but Israeli police said preliminary evidence suggested someone planted the bomb, possibly in a bag.
"We're talking about an explosive device, apparently not a suicide bomber. It is being checked," said Jerusalem's Deputy Police Chief Ilan Franco.
In Washington, presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer called the bombing "a horrific attack of terror."
"Campuses around the world are places of learning, should be places of peace," Fleischer said. "This terrorist attack underscores again the need for the Palestinian people and Palestinian leadership to take action to halt terrorism so peace has a chance in Middle East."
The White House remarks came as President Bush prepared for two days of talks beginning Thursday to review Mideast peace proposals with Jordan's King Abdullah. The monarch hopes to persuade the Bush administration to step up its timetable for Palestinian statehood and for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza.
Alastair Goldrein, 19, from Liverpool, England, said he was on his way to lunch when the bomb went off.
"There was a huge, huge explosion. Everything shook and then there was this deathly silence," said Goldrein. "I ran in, there were people lying around wailing, covered in blood. Scenes that are indescribable, clothes and flesh torn apart."
Chairs, tables and plates were overturned, wires dangled from the ceiling. Sirens wailed as rescue vehicles converged to remove the bloodied victims. Sniffer dogs checked for more bombs.
Seven people were killed and more than were 70 wounded, several of them critically, Israeli officials said.
The blast was at the university's Mount Scopus campus, a Jewish enclave surrounded by Palestinian neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city.
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