Photo: AP

Jerusalem----October 10.....Two people were murdered and 30 wounded when an Arab suicide bomber, blew himself up on the sidewalk at the Bar-Ilan junction on the Geha Highway near Tel Aviv this morning.

Se'ada Aharon, 71, a housekeeper from Petah Tikva, was killed in the attack, the second suicide bombing on a Dan bus in the Tel Aviv area within a month. It occurred shortly before 8 a.m. at a bus stop crowded with rush hour commuters just outside Bar-Ilan University.

Hamas, which has vowed to avenge the deaths of 14 Palestinians in an IDF raid on Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip on Monday, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The bomber was identified as Rafik Hamad, 31, a father of four from the village of Habla, south of Kalkilya.
The driver of a No. 87 Dan bus, Baruch Neuman, and a passenger averted "a major disaster" and "saved the lives of many people this morning," according to Tel Aviv police chief Cmdr. Yossi Sedbon.

Neuman noticed a man trying to sneak onto the bus through the back door. The bus was packed with soldiers and civilians heading for work at Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer. He quickly closed the doors and started to drive. Passengers yelled out that a man had fallen and been injured. Neuman and a woman who said she was a medic rushed out of the bus to find the man on the ground with a head wound.

"I noticed that the man had a light head wound and was bleeding, apparently caused by the fall," Neuman said. "We opened his shirt and saw an explosives belt strapped onto his body. I was in shock." The woman spotted the bomb belt, made of white cotton, with wires going down to the legs. He and a fellow passenger, a cardiologist restrained the man.

"The man who was with me shouted that we should each grab one of the bomber's hands and not let him move, so he couldn't blow himself up," said Neuman.
Witnesses said Neuman shouted, "It's a terrorist, it's a terrorist, everybody get out of here."

After three to four tense minutes, the dazed terrorist "started twitching, and opened his eyes," said Neuman. The two Israelis feared the bomber would break loose, so they decided to release the man and run. As the bus' passengers and bystanders on the street fled, the two men who had pinned the bomber by the arms and Neuman began to speak to the bomber, asking him about his motives and assuring him he would not be hurt if he stopped resisting. The bomber, apparently in shock, did not respond.

Now freed, the terrorist then rose, and began "sort of running directly towards me, like a robot straight towards me," said Eli Dan, 38, recovering from a shrapnel wound at Sheba Hospital.

While most people had enough time to flee, a combination of confusion and curiosity kept some from escaping the blast.

"He looked dazed, and everything seemed to happen in slow motion," Dan said. "Suddenly, everything was black. I was flung back a few meters as he blew up in the most incredible boom I have ever heard. But I guess I was lucky."

Some eyewitnesses said they heard Hamad yell something in Arabic.

Six of the victims remained hospitalized Thursday night, one in moderate condition. The rest suffered moderate shrapnel wounds.

Many of the wounded suffered from shock and were released after a few hours from Sheba Hospital and the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva.
The approximately five-kilogram bomb was packed with bolts and ball bearings. It was powerful enough to sever the attacker's head and send it 30 meters away.
Aharon, who was on her way to work as a housekeeper, was mortally wounded in the blast and pronounced dead upon arrival at the Rabin Medical Center.

Aharon, of Yemenite descent, was a devoted grandmother of 15, according to friends and family. They described her as "noble," saying she was always smiling and graced with an aristocratic manner. She was buried in Rosh Ha'ayin Thursday evening.

Following the attack, Palestinian Authority officials and Israeli leaders criticized each other. Former PA cabinet minister Saeb Erekat condemned the killing of civilians, "whether Palestinians or Israelis," but added, "We hold Prime Minister [Ariel] Sharon responsible for the current escalation."

David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister's Office, said, "Palestinian terrorists have declared open season on Israelis." He said Israel holds PA Chairman Yasser Arafat responsible, saying he does nothing to prevent terrorist attacks.

In Washington, the State Department condemned the attack.

"We do condemn in the strongest possible terms the terrorist bombing earlier today in northern Israel that killed one Israeli civilian," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "As we've said before, terror and violence have no place in this region, and undermine Palestinian national aspirations.

"We've called again on Palestinian leaders to take this opportunity to condemn terror and violence and to take steps against all acts of violence," he added.

Hours before the Palestinian terrorist attack, the IDF was engaged in fighting in Gaza during an army operation to seek and destroy tunnels used to smuggle arms into Gaza from Egypt. The IDF successfully discovered and sealed two weapon's tunnels. No IDF personnel were injured in the firefight.