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The BBC's Jeremy Cooke in Jerusalem
"There was no warning"
 real 56k

The BBC's Paul Adams
"There was an atmosphere of relief"
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The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"Israel is on edge"
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The BBC's Orla Guerin in Jerusalem
"This was a message about the future of the peace process"
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Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 18:07 GMT
Blasts rock West Jerusalem
Jerusalem bomb blast scene
'A message to Sharon', warns Barak
There have been two explosions in the heart of the ultra-orthodox area of West Jerusalem.

Police say the blasts, in the Me'a She'arim district, were caused by a car bomb.

Medical staff treated a number of people for light injuries - no-one was killed.

Israel's Prime Minister-elect, Ariel Sharon, has responded by demanding that the Palestinians bring a complete halt to "terror and violence".

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but correspondents say it is widely believed to be the work of Islamic extremists.

Suspects arrested

"It was a car bomb," Jerusalem Police Commander Micky Levy said.

This represents the basic policy of the Palestinians. They are not after peace, they are after blood

Ehud Olmert
Mayor of Jerusalem

"The car was totally destroyed. I think it was a huge miracle that people weren't killed," he said.

Eye-witnesses said the blasts threw debris up to four storeys high.

"I heard a bang and I started running away, and then half a minute later I heard a second blast. I saw pieces of car flying in the air," David Leiser told the Associated Press news agency.

Reports say police have arrested two suspects running away from the area towards East Jerusalem.

A government spokesman said parts of hand grenades were found nearby.

Car wrecakge
The wrecked car

The BBC's Hilary Andersson, reporting from the scene, says hundreds of residents came out on to the street to inspect the damage.

She says ambulances rushed to the site of the explosion and police immediately sealed off the area.

The outgoing Prime Minister, Ehud Barak who was in Tel Aviv, said the attack was a message to Mr Sharon about the future of the peace process.

But the Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, dismissed any connection to the election of Mr Sharon.

"This represents the basic policy of the Palestinians. They are not after peace, they are after blood," Mr Olmert said.

Mr Sharon says he will not negotiate with the Palestinians until the present violence, which has claimed some 400 lives, ends.

Shortly before the attack, President Bush telephoned Mr Arafat to urge him to "make every effort to help stop the violence and calm the situation, " White House spokeswoman Mary Ellen Countryman told reporters.

Unlike his predecessor, Bill Clinton, Mr Bush has indicated that is unwilling to get heavily involved in the peace process until he believes an intervention would have a significant impact on the two sides.

'A call to destroy'

Earlier on Thursday, one of Mr Sharon's senior aides reiterated Likud policy that a new government was not bound by any agreements made with the Palestinians by Mr Barak's outgoing government.

Ariel Sharon
Sharon says he will not negotiate until violence ends

Zalman Shoval said Mr Sharon's government would be only be bound by signed accords.

A senior advisor to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, described this as an indication of "a call to destroy peace accords and abort efforts to revive the peace process".

Unity government

Within Israel itself, Likud negotiators have been preparing to hold talks with Mr Barak's Labour party about forming a new government.

The talks will be complicated by the disarray within Labour - the biggest party in the Israeli parliament - following the decision of Mr Barak to resign as leader following his heavy defeat by Mr Sharon on Tuesday.

Labour leaders are split over whether to join the coalition to help temper Mr Sharon's hard-line views or stay out in the hope that his government would collapse in the near future.

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08 Feb 01 | Middle East
Mid-East war of words
08 Feb 01 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
08 Feb 01 | Media reports
Press seeks new deal for Arabs
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