TEL AVIV, Israel — A Palestinian blew himself up on a crowded bus Thursday in downtown Tel Aviv, killing at least five other people and wounding 49, the second suicide bombing in two days. In response, Israeli tanks charged into Yasser Arafat’s West Bank headquarters.
The shrapnel-studded explosives tore through the bus on Tel Aviv’s Allenby Street while it was passing through the heart of a teeming restaurant and business district at lunchtime. The driver, his body blackened, slumped at the wheel. Passengers jumped out of shattered windows.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though Israeli media outlets reported conflicting claims by the militant Palestinian groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
In the evening, as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with his Cabinet, Israeli tanks entered Arafat’s city-block-sized headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian leader was holed up in his offices.
An official inside the compound said the Israeli tanks had advanced to the area of a helicopter landing pad outside Arafat’s office building, which is protected by piles of sandbags.
Israel has held Arafat’s Palestinian Authority responsible for anti-Israeli attacks, saying it has not done enough to crack down on militants. Israeli troops have held Ramallah under siege for most of the year, with tanks breaking into the compound several times, destroying some buildings. Arafat has been confined to his office building most of the time since December.