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CNN BREAKING NEWS

At Least 8 Dead in Haifa Explosion

Aired March 5, 2003 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin this morning in Israel, where CNN can now confirm that at least eight people have lost their lives, at least 20 injured when an explosion ripped through a bus in the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Police are confirming that that number could go even higher. They are going through the dreadful task now of, well, they're describing this sifting through body parts at the scene.
Mike Hanna joins us from our bureau right now with more information -- Mike.

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, police here are not confirming at this stage the exact number of dead. What police are saying is that there are a number of people killed in this explosion, which occurred aboard a bus in the Israeli northern port city of Haifa, in the Carmel region, which is just above the city.

Police say, as well, that a large number of people have been injured. Various reports are putting the death toll at anything between eight, some reports saying more than 10 people killed. But at this stage we have not confirmed an exact number of deaths.

The explosion occurred within the last half hour. Police are characterizing this as a terror attack, but they say at this stage they are not sure what the nature of the attack was, whether it was, in fact, a suicide bomber aboard the bus or whether it was an explosive device that was detonated remotely aboard that bus.

What we do know at this stage is that there was an explosion shortly after half past two local time in the afternoon, that there are a number of people dead. There are dozens of people injured, according to various reports from the scene. Police saying that this confirmed as a terror attack. The exact nature of the attack being investigated at the moment -- Paula.

ZAHN: Mike Hanna, we were just on the phone with Gil Kilmon, a spokesperson for the Israeli police, and he said the explosion was so powerful he believes that even stores in the adjoining area, not were leveled, but seriously damaged. He also said it was his belief that the bus had just pulled out of a bust stop.

HANNA: Yes, this is indeed what we've been hearing from Gil Kilmon there, that the size, the nature of the explosion was vast, indeed. A great amount of damage has been caused to the bus and to buildings adjoining the bus. According to these initial reports, the bus had, in fact, been pulling out of the bus station at the time that the explosion occurred. It was on its way down into Haifa proper, traveling along the Mariah Boulevard (ph), this a major arterial road through the Carmel District, leading down into the city of Haifa.

This road lined with restaurants, several cultural centers in that area, although it is predominantly a residential area. We now have received a report saying that we have at least 30 people wounded. These are people admitted to hospital at this stage or on their way to hospital. Half of these, we are told by medical authorities, are said to be in a serious condition.

So the information that we have at the moment is an explosion aboard a bus in the northern port city of Haifa. Israeli police say it was a terror attack. The exact nature of the attack still being investigated. There are a number of people dead. The exact number not confirmed at this stage. There are well over 20 people wounded, many of them said to be in a serious condition, according to medical authorities.

This the first terror attack within Israel proper in two months, since the beginning of January, when a double suicide blast in Tel Aviv claimed more than 20 lives. In the intervening period, no attacks within, successful attacks, that is, within Israel proper. Israeli police and intelligence authorities saying, however, they have foiled a number of attempts to carry out such attacks.

Within this period, as well, a number of ongoing Israeli operations in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. In February alone, some 70 Palestinians were killed in these ongoing operations. Although there has been a period of relative calm on the surface within Israel proper, not the case within the Palestinian territories.

But now we have what has been confirmed by police as a terror attack, an attack, an explosion aboard a bus in Haifa. Well over 30 people wounded, many in a serious condition. A number of people dead. The exact number we're still waiting to hear and also still waiting to hear the exact nature of this attack, whether it was a suicide bomber or bombers or whether it was some kind of explosive device aboard that bus that was remotely detonated.

All these details were still gathering in as the reports come to us -- Paula.

ZAHN: Mike Hanna, thanks so much.

We just wanted to share with you now some witness accounts that are coming through. A quote from a man on the scene. "The scenes are horrific here, twisted metal. It is very difficult to look at it." Another eyewitness told Israeli TV that the center of the bus lifted up into the air. The roof was torn off. It looked like a blast inside the bus and within seconds people began taking the wounded out of the bus.

Once again, the number of people wounded, according to Mike Hanna, is 30. Half of them considered in very serious condition. CNN confirming at least eight dead, although Israeli officials tell us they do expect that number to go up.

We will try to stay on top of this story and as soon as we have more information, we will bring it to you.

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