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At least 2 dead as car bomb explodes in northern Israel town
Blast follows killings of 4 Palestinians in Gaza
CNN Correspondents Mike Hanna, Jerrold Kessel and Tom Mintier contributed to this report.
HADERA, Israel (CNN) -- A car bomb exploded alongside a bus on a busy street in the northern Israeli town of Hadera during Wednesday's evening rush hour, killing at least two people and wounding at least 55.
Israeli officials said the bomb detonated in a parked car as the bus pulled out of a central depot. Witnesses said the bus was hurled across the street and into a bakery window.
A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office called the bombing a "barbaric attack" on Israeli citizens and said Israel held the Palestinian Authority and its president, Yasser Arafat, responsible.
The Palestinian Authority, however, rejected Israel's insistence that it was responsible and in turn blamed Israel for the violence.
"Barak and (Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul) Mofaz must stop making these accusations," said a statement released by the Palestinian Authority. "We do not accept responsibility for what happens in areas under Israel's control. We hold Israel responsible for the escalation in the current conflict."
Death toll rising
The Hadera blast followed by a few hours the deaths of four Palestinians, shot at an Israeli roadblock near a Jewish settlement in Gaza. The Israelis said all four were Palestinian militants responsible for attacks against Israelis, and that they were shot when they tried to break through an Israeli roadblock set up to stop them.
The Palestinians, however, said the four were innocent civilians killed in cold blood.
Another Palestinian was reported killed in an Israeli missile attack in Gaza.
Wednesday's casualties pushed the death toll in nearly two months of violence between Palestinians and Israelis to more than 270 -- all but a handful of them Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.
But the number of Israeli Jews killed or wounded in the clashes has been on the rise -- including two adults killed on Monday while riding in a school bus hit by a bomb in an Israeli-controlled corridor through Palestinian territory. Five children were wounded.
Three pro-Palestinian groups claimed responsibility for that attack: Palestinian Hezbollah, al-Aqsa Martyrs and Omar al-Mukhtar.
The Palestinian Authority, however, disclaimed any responsibility for either Wednesday's blast in Hadera or Monday's school bus attack.
Israel vows retaliation
The Israeli government warned that Israel would "settle its accounts" with the bombers.
"There are enough Palestinian terrorists that are moving freely" after the Palestinian Authority released dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants from jails earlier this fall, Israeli government spokesman Nachman Shai told CNN.
"Sooner or later we'll have to find the people responsible for that attack ... and we'll have to retaliate," he said. "The blame falls on Arafat's shoulders. He is the one who initiated this crisis. He started the violence two months ago."
Hadera, a coastal town on the main road from Tel Aviv and Haifa, has been the site of numerous bombings through years of Middle Eastern violence.
Arafat spokesman Nabil Aburudenei, however, said the Israeli accusations were absolutely wrong.
"They know very well that this is not a true story," he told CNN by phone from Cairo. "They know that they have full responsibility on their land."
Aburudenei also pointed out that Israel has prevented the free movement of Palestinians between their own towns and into and out of Israeli territory since the latest spate of violence began on September 28.
"We have been under siege for the last eight weeks," he said. "How could they go to that area while we are under siege? Even our officials are forbidden from moving."
Two Israelis dead, 9 injured in Gaza bombing
Israel Defense Forces
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