Two explosions took place within minutes of each other on two Beersheba city buses, on route nos. 6 and 12, shortly before 3:00 P.M. on Tuesday afternoon. The buses were traveling along Beersheba’s main street, Rager Blvd, near the city hall. Sixteen people were killed and 100 wounded.
Israel Radio reported that one bus was in flames, while windows were blown out of the second vehicle. Both buses had just left the city’s central bus station. Most of the passengers on the second bus, no. 12, fled the bus before the bomb exploded on hearing the first explosion.
The bombings were carried out by two suicide bombers. Hamas in Hebron claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in response to the attack: “Today’s acts of terror in Be’er Sheva were very serious. On behalf of the Government, I would like to convey condolences to the families and our best wishes for a quick recovery to the wounded.
This afternoon, I held talks with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon on the continuation of activity and on methods in the war against terror. I am going to continue talks on these issues.
We will fight such Palestinian terror with all our forces."
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom placed the blame squarely at PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, who "has brought nothing but terror and evil since his return to the territories."
The United States and European Union condemned the bombing. US Secretary of State Colin Powell phoned FM Silvan Shalom to express condolences for the attack, and asked that his message be relayed to the Israeli people. Javier Solana, the EU’s top foreign policy official, said, "Violence must stop. It seriously undermines all efforts to find a solution to the Middle East conflict." German FM Joschka Fischer, speaking from Egypt one day after his visit to Israel, called to express outrage at the attack. The Foreign Minister of Spain also phoned to express condolences.
Earlier Tuesday, IDF soldiers intercepted a Palestinian man carrying an explosives belt trying to cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Beersheba is located 25 miles west of Gaza city.
The victims, all residents of Beersheba:
* Shoshana Amos, 64