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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Suicide bomber strikes Jerusalem
Scene of the bomb in northern Jerusalem
The bomber exploded near a bus stop
A female Palestinian suicide bomber has blown herself up in Jerusalem, killing two people and injuring 15 others, Israeli police say.

The blast happened in the busy French Hill area in the north of the city.

The area, close to Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem, has been the scene of previous attacks on Israeli civilians.

Last month, 16 people were killed by suicide bombers in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba - the first major suicide attacks in Israel since March.

Speaking after the latest bombing, Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon said Israel would "continue [its] struggle against terror with all force".

Woman bomber

The blast happened shortly before 1600 local time (1400 GMT).

One witness told Israeli television the attacker tried to approach a hitchhiking post used by Israeli soldiers when a border police officer spotted her.

"He tried to stop her and she blew up," Moshe Suissa told Channel Two television.

Another witness, Debbie Segal, told Israel Army Radio the bomber "threw her head back and then there was an explosion".

"A few seconds later, her body burst into flames," she said.

A spokesman for the Palestinian militant group, al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, in Nablus, claimed it had carried out the attack.

He named the bomber as Zeinab abu Salem, an 18-year-old woman from the Askar refugee camp, near Nablus in the West Bank.

Suicide bombers have killed hundreds of people in Israel since the start of the Palestinian uprising nearly four years ago.

Several of the bombers have been women.

Palestinian militant groups regard suicide attacks as an effective form of resistance.

They point to the large number of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli forces in the occupied territories.

Revenge call

Last week, al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades vowed revenge after the killing of three of its members, including senior member Mahmoud Khalifa.

Two days later 10 Palestinians were killed by Israeli raids in the northern West Bank towns of Nablus and Jenin - strongholds for the militant group.

It is more than six months since the last suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

The French Hill junction - which lies in a disputed enclave within the formerly Arab eastern half of the city annexed by Israel after the 1967 war - has been targeted by bombers before.

It is a busy intersection where many people board buses, including Jewish settlers moving in and out of the West Bank.

The Israeli authorities say the construction of a security barrier in the West Bank, and repeated raids against suspected militants, have helped to prevent attacks in recent months.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades are linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement and have carried out numerous deadly attacks across the West Bank, Gaza and in Israel.

The BBC's Matthew Price
"It could have been far worse"


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