Jerusalem Woman Bomber
Kills 6 Israelis, Wounds 90

By Edmund Blair

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A suicide bomber blew herself up near a crowded Jerusalem market on Friday, killing six Israelis and wounding nearly 90 as Secretary of State Colin Powell toured the area on his quest for peace.
"It sounded like a mountain exploded. The ground was moving. People ran away, screaming," a municipal worker, who identified himself only as Gilad, told Reuters.
The powerful blast left victims strewn in pools of blood and charred vegetables and fruit scattered amid broken glass.
Powell got a bird's eye view of the carnage from aboard a military helicopter. He was taking off on an aerial tour of the tense Israel-Lebanon border as the blast occurred and made a detour to fly over the scene.
The explosion rocked Jerusalem just hours after Powell held talks in the city with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on ending a two-week-old Israeli offensive in the West Bank -- something the Israeli leader has refused to do despite repeated U.S. demands.
"I condemn the terrorists for this act," Powell told reporters. "It illustrates the dangerous situation that exists here."
The al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, a group linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility, Lebanon's Hizbollah al-Manar television reported.
"Apparently it was a female suicide bomber... we are talking about a young woman," Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy told reporters.
Levy said she had headed for the Mahane Yehuda open-air market -- a frequent target of suicide bombers -- where crowds were busy shopping before the start of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown.
But he said she apparently changed course upon seeing police guarding the market's entrance. "She set off her bomb at a bus stop when a bus came to let off passengers," Levy said. "She set off a very powerful bomb."
At least three other Palestinian women, one no more than 18 years old, have carried out suicide bombings against Israelis during the 18-month-old Palestinian uprising against occupation.
The latest attack raised more questions about Sharon's contention that the army onslaught in the West Bank was preventing new attacks on Israelis. A suicide bombing on a bus near Haifa on Wednesday killed eight Israelis.
Police said six people in addition to the bomber were killed in Friday's bombing. Hospital officials said at least 89 were wounded, eight seriously.
In Washington, a spokesman for President Bush said he deplored the bombing and "will not be deterred from seeking peace despite this attack."
In initial talks with Sharon, Powell failed to secure a firm timetable for an end to Israel's crushing military campaign.
"I hope we can find a way to come into agreement on this point of the duration of the operations and get back to a track that will lead to a political settlement," said Powell, on a mission to stem 18 months of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed.
Israel maintained a tight grip on most of the West Bank's important cities, despite an "I meant what I said" call by Bush this week to heed his demands to begin a pullback immediately.
Sharon said at a news conference with Powell that Israel was warring against "the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure" and repeated a vague pledge to end the offensive soon.
Israeli forces pushed into Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps on March 29 after a Palestinian suicide bombing that killed 28 people attending a Jewish Passover holiday dinner at a hotel in the central city of Netanya.
"We do understand what terrorism is, and as we have responded to terrorism, we know that Israel has a right to respond to terrorism. The question is how do we get beyond just a response," Powell said.
But he warned Israel of what he called the long-term strategic consequences of a campaign that has killed at least 200 Palestinians and stoked regional and international anger.
Powell said Israel and the Palestinians must eventually begin peace negotiations and noted there was a "mutual commitment to get to that point." Sharon countered by saying there "cannot be peace with terror."
Powell planned on Saturday to see Arafat, penned by Israeli armor at his West Bank compound, and said he would seek actions and not just words from him to staunch violence.
The secretary of state is expected to meet Sharon again after the talks with Arafat.
Israeli leaders are normally careful to avoid alienating the United States, which provides the Jewish state with $3 billion in annual aid, but Sharon has made a career of testing the limits of Washington's tolerance.
A new opinion poll in Maariv newspaper showed 75 percent of Israelis supported the offensive and Sharon's approval rating soaring to 59 percent from 35 percent since the operation began.
Emotions ran high over events in the Jenin refugee camp, where Palestinians have accused Israeli forces of committing a massacre. Fierce house-to-house fighting ended there on Thursday with the surrender of Palestinian gunmen.
Brigadier-General Ron Kitrey, the Israeli military's chief spokesman, denied any massacre had taken place. He told Army Radio "there were apparently hundreds of dead," but his office later said he had misspoken and had meant dead and wounded.
Palestinians accused Israel of planning to bury bodies secretly to hide the scope of the killing in Jenin. An Israeli military source said the army was in the process of identifying corpses and would hand them over to families. He declined to say what would happen to unidentified bodies.
After what the Israeli media said was U.S. pressure on Sharon, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher was allowed past an Israeli cordon and met Arafat on Friday.
Peace hopes rest mainly with the United States, the region's most influential player and also courting Arab support for any campaign launched against Iraq in the global war on terror.
At least 1,264 Palestinians and 452 Israelis have been killed since the Palestinian uprising began in September 2000.

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