TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) -- A Palestinian blew himself up on a crowded bus Thursday in downtown Tel Aviv, killing at least five other people and wounding 49. It was the second suicide bombing in two days after a six-week lull.
The blast tore through the bus on Allenby Street while it was passing through the heart of a teeming restaurant and business district at lunchtime. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though Israeli media outlets reported conflicting claims by the militant Palestinian groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
In other violence Thursday, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy was killed in the West Bank town of Ramallah when he broke an Israeli curfew to buy cigarettes for his father. Witnesses said he was shot by Israeli soldiers. The military said it was checking the incident. In Abu Dis, a West Bank suburb of Jerusalem, Israeli bulldozers razed the family homes of two Palestinians who blew themselves up in Jerusalem on Dec. 1, killing 11 bystanders.
Before this week, there had been no suicide bombings in Israel since Aug. 4. The renewed attacks came a day after Israel rejected a Palestinian proposal for a two-stage truce. Israel said the Palestinian offer to halt attacks in Israel proper during the first phase implied Palestinians still would feel free to strike Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
After Thursday's blast, Hamas spokesman Ismail Abu Shanab told The Associated Press he expected to see "a series of operations against the Zionist enemy, as a result of the daily brutal crimes against our people." But he stopped short of claiming responsibility.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack, in which a suicide bomber blew himself at a bus stop in northern Israel, killing an Israeli policeman. After the Tel Aviv attack, Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority said it condemns all attacks on civilians, Israeli or Palestinian.
Thursday's explosion went off just after 1 p.m., outside one of the major synagogues in Tel Aviv, across the street from a Starbucks coffee shop and a block away from the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer briefly toured the scene and consulted with army commanders on how to respond.
Israeli troops already occupy most Palestinian towns in the West Bank and confine hundreds of thousands of residents their to their homes daily to try to keep militants out of Israel.
However, troops lifted the curfew in the town of Jenin for several hours Tuesday for the first time in weeks, and there was some speculation that the recent days attackers may have come from the town, a hotbed of militants.
Mark Sofer, an official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said that "once again, the utter bestiality of Palestinian terrorism has reared its ugly head, on a bus in Tel Aviv." Sofer held the Palestinian Authority responsible, saying it had done nothing to rein in militants.
The Palestinian Authority said in a statement that the Tel Aviv attack was "totally against the (Palestinian) national interest, and it gives (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon's government and his occupation army the pretext to continue killing, to continue the siege and to continue settlement activities."
Arafat has condemned attacks on Israeli civilians -- most recently in a speech to parliament last week -- though Israel accuses him of doing little to prevent them. The Palestinians say Israel's military strikes have rendered their security services powerless against the militants.
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