HADERA, ISRAEL — HADERA, Israel -- A second bus-bombing in a week, killing six and injuring 30 yesterday, left Israelis preparing nervously for their Independence Day celebrations today, suspicious of every package and wary of crowds.
The blast shattered the morning calm yesterday, the nation's day of remembrance for those killed in conflicts with the Arabs, including five full-scale wars. The explosion sent victims spilling out of broken windows and blackened doors of the bus.
It was the second of five planned attacks by the radical Palestinian group Hamas, the group claimed from Amman, the Jordanian capital.
The attacks are in retaliation for the Feb. 25 massacre of Muslim worshipers by a Jewish settler in Hebron, the group said.
"I saw soldiers trying to revive a friend, but he was dead," said Orley Yeheskel, 30, a local journalist who was passing the bus station when the blast occurred. "They were calling, 'Uri, Uri, Uri, Wake up!' "
"The person next to me was completely mangled," said a passenger, Rachel Mualem, 53. "You're talking to somebody and then you hear a boom and then they are not there anymore."
Police said they believe that a suicide bomber boarded the bus as it loaded passengers for a 30-mile trip to Tel Aviv, and that he was one of those killed in the blast. A second blast -- apparently from another bomb -- occurred about one hour later outside the vehicle, but injured no one.
"There is no doubt there were two bombs," said Police Commissioner Rafi Peled. "It is possible there was a second attacker." Mr. Peled said later that the second explosive was a time bomb, set to go off an hour after the initial explosion. But it exploded prematurely.
Authorities warned Israelis to be cautious today, a day of traditional picnicking to mark the 46th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state. Bus drivers were ordered to carry out extra searches, people were warned to be alert in crowds, and extra police and army troops were scheduled to work.
"There is a need for extra alertness today and tomorrow," said Police Minister Moshe Shahal.
Date of withdrawal
The blast occurred as another deadline in the troubled Israeli-Palestinian peace process passed unfulfilled: Yesterday was originally set as the date of the final withdrawal of Israeli forces from Jericho and the Gaza Strip. Negotiations over that withdrawal were stalled by the Hebron massacre.
In its statement, Hamas, a Palestinian group opposed to the peace process, said: "This is our second response to the massacre, and the rest is to come. We decided that our response would be in five stages, every one making the Zionists and settlers cry blood on their dead."
The bus attack generated now-familiar responses. Even before the debris of death was cleared away, a crowd gathered at the site shouting, "Death to the Arabs," and denouncing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for pressing ahead with the peace process.
The opposition Likud coalition took to the airwaves to cite the attack as another reason to quit peace talks with the Palestinians. Mr. Rabin and his ministers responded by calling the attack further evidence of the need for peace talks.
The government said it would not succumb to extremist attempts to kill negotiations with the Palestine Liberation
"Those who say today, 'Stop the negotiations,' give additional encouragement to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad to carry on with terrorism," said Mr. Rabin. "The real answer to them is, together with the PLO, to prove that it is possible to reach an agreement."
Arafat criticizes attack, Israel
Unlike after last week's bus bombing, Yasser Arafat, chairman of the PLO, weighed in with comments, saying that the incident was "an attack on innocent Israeli civilians." He said the attack "strikes at the heart of the peace process."
"These actions are, unfortunately, directed only against innocent people. And these innocent people are on both sides, Israelis and Palestinians," he said in a speech in Strasbourg, France, where he was visiting the European Parliament.
He also strongly criticized what he called Israel's "policy of mass killings and detention," and blamed Israel for missing yesterday's deadline for troop withdrawal.
The deadline was set in September's agreement between the PLO and Israel, but both sides still are arguing over the procedures.
The bus that was yesterday's target had traveled from Afula, the northern Israel town that was the site of a suicide bombing last week that killed eight people. It stopped in Hadera, on the coast, and was boarding passengers for the journey to Tel Aviv.
Many of those in the bus were soldiers heading homeward for the observances of Israeli's Memorial Day yesterday and Independence Day today.
"I sat in the middle of the bus. I saw a black bag, and I said, 'Whose bag is that? Whose bag is that?" said Jaqueline Balulu, 33. "But the driver had gotten off the bus to argue with a soldier.
"Then it exploded, and the bus was filled with smoke. Everybody was pushing everyone else and shouting," she said. Mrs. Balulu grabbed her daughter, Sandra, 12, and in their exit the girl broke her leg. "It was a miracle we escaped."
Keren Salomonowicz, a 19-year-old lieutenant, said that the bus was crowded, and three persons were standing near the rear door, between her and the bomb.
"I think all of them were killed," she said.
"I heard an explosion and my uniform caught fire. I panicked, and I couldn't walk," she said. "Then a soldier dragged me out the back door. I believe if the people weren't in the aisle, I would have been hit."
The blast shattered the rear windows of the bus and jammed the doors, according to eyewitnesses. A soldier finally forced the rear door open with his rifle, according to Yoram Hadad, who operates a nut concession at the station.
Hospital officials said they received 30 injured. Most were only moderately hurt, suffering from shock or ear injuries, they said, and were quickly released.
Bombs rarely used
The successive bomb attacks, a method that has rarely been used successfully by Palestinians here, has caused concern that the Palestinian uprising may take on an ominous new tactic.
Israelis have speculated that some of the Palestinians deported by Israel to Lebanon last year may have returned with bomb-making skills learned in that country.