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7 Dead in Jerusalem Suicide Bombing - 2004-02-22


A suicide bomber blew up a bus in downtown Jerusalem today (Sunday), killing at least seven people and wounding more than 60 others. At least 11 of the injured are said to be in serious condition.

The bus was packed with passengers during the morning rush hour when the bomb went off, destroying the bus and blowing out windows of nearby buildings.

The Palestinian militant group Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has claimed responsibility for the attack. An announcement by the militants identified a young man from a village near Bethlehem as the bomber.

Palestinian officials condemned the bombing, and appealed to the United States to step up its peace efforts.

The attack came a day before the International Court of Justice at The Hague begins hearings on the legality of Israel's security barrier -- aproject of fences and walls that cut deep into the West Bank.

Israeli officials say today's attack proves the need for a secure separation barrier to prevent would-be Palestinian bombers from entering Israel.

Earlier today, Israel began dismantling and re-routing an eight-kilometer section of the barrier that has isolated a Palestinian town from the rest of the West Bank.

The International Court of Justice opens hearings on the legality of Israel's controversial barrier on Monday. The judges' opinion will be non-binding.

Israel refuses to take part in the hearings, saying a courtroom in the Netherlands is not the place to deal with the West Bank issue.

Palestinians say the fence-building project is an attempt to grab land before borders are set for a future Palestinian state. On Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians protested against the barrier in demonstrations across the West Bank.

The United States and the European Union, backers of the so-called "road map" peace plan, have criticized the barrier, but they also say the court's involvement could complicate the peace process.

Information for this report is AP, AFP and Reurers.

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