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Sunday, 2 December, 2001, 06:59 GMT
Death toll climbs in Jerusalem attacks
Israeli police try to evacuate scene as bomb car burns
The attack was mounted with nail bombs
Suicide attackers armed with nail bombs have blown themselves up in a busy central Jerusalem shopping mall, killing at least 10 other people and injuring many others.

The blasts, which took place shortly after one another, happened in an area packed with shops and restaurants shortly after midnight local time and were followed by a car bomb explosion 20 minutes later.


It was a truly horrible attack, one of the worst we have ever had

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres

A caller purporting to be from the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad told the BBC that the group was responsible and promised new attacks imminently.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who warned of a "commensurate" response, is cutting short a visit to the US, bringing forward talks with President George W Bush by one day to Sunday at noon local time (1700 GMT).

Hours after the attack, Israeli forces arrested several alleged militants in the village of Abu Dis on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Bodies at the scene
Nail bombs are designed to create maximum carnage

Reports say about 170 people, many of them revellers in their late teens, were also injured in the attacks, described by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres as "one of the worst... ever seen".

An Israeli Government official said Mr Arafat was guilty of a "total lack of action in the domain of fighting terror".

But the Palestinian leadership issued a strongly-worded statement, condemning the attacks and pledging to track down those responsible.

Claim

A caller saying they represented Islamic Jihad phoned the BBC bureau in Jerusalem and claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The caller, who spoke Arabic, said there would be further action against Israel during the holy month of Ramadan, which runs for approximately another two weeks.

Distraught police officer at scene
The car bomb exploded as 20 people were trying to move the vehicle away

The caller rang off before further details could be asked.

Earlier on Saturday, Palestinian police arrested a top member of Islamic Jihad, Mohammed al-Hindi, based in Gaza City after a gun battle at his home.

Islamic Jihad and fellow militants Hamas have threatened to avenge Israel's killing last month of a Hamas military leader, Abu Hanoud.

City shaken

Witnesses saw people thrown into the air by the force of the blasts on Ben Yehuda Street, which could be heard across the city.

Our correspondent says many people in the area are in a state of shock. The area would have been particularly busy at the time, just after the end of the Jewish Sabbath.

The first blast happened outside a cafe in the Ben Yehuda shopping centre.

A passer-by, Yossi Mizrahi, told Reuters news agency of the carnage:

"I saw people without arms. I saw a person with their stomach hanging open. I saw a 10 year-old-boy breathe his last breath. I can't believe anybody would do anything like this."

US demand

The attacks came as senior US envoy Anthony Zinni was visiting Israel and Palestinian-controlled areas to try to secure a ceasefire.

Mr Zinni phoned Mr Arafat on Saturday night and urged him to do everything to find the organisers of the attacks.

US peace envoy Anthony Zinni
Mr Zinni is a retired US Marine Corps general
"I spoke with Chairman Arafat tonight and made absolutely clear that those responsible for planning and carrying out these attacks must be found and brought to justice," he said.

The US envoy's arrival last week coincided with an upsurge in violence.

On Thursday, an Islamic Jihad militant blew himself up on a bus, killing himself and three Israelis, and two Palestinians were reportedly shot dead by Israeli troops on Saturday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Israeli officials say this was one of the worst attacks Jerusalem has ever seen"
Raanan Gissin, spokesman for Ariel Sharon
"Yasser Arafat has to assume responsibility"
Saeb Erekat, advisor to Yasser Arafat
"The only way out of this cycle of violence is the peace process"
The BBC's Nick Hawton
"Hopes of a breakthrough in the peace negotiations seem as far away as ever"
See also:

02 Dec 01 | Middle East
In pictures: Jerusalem blasts
24 Nov 01 | Middle East
Vows of revenge for 'bomber's' death
01 Dec 01 | Middle East
Palestinian police arrest top militant
01 Dec 01 | Americas
Low expectations for Sharon visit
29 Mar 01 | Profiles
Who are the suicide bombers?
01 Dec 01 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
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