With Reuters

The count of dead in a terror attack on an Egged bus, number 361, has risen to nine, but more deaths are expected due to the severity of the wounds incurred by at least nine of the passengers.

The bomb exploded on or near a packed Egged bus travelling from Haifa to Safed at 8:45 Sunday morning. It had left the central bus station in the Haifa bay area at 7:15.

The militant Islamic group Hamas claimed responsibility for the blast, which was near Merom intersection.

The Izz el-Deen al-Qassam brigades takes full responsibility for this heroic operation," Hamas said in a statement, referring to its military wing.

Dozens more have been wounded and many are said to be in grievous condition.

Salomon said the explosion took place near the entrance to the burial site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai.

"It is a terrorist attack in a bus and there are apparently many, many casualties," Yehuda Solomon, a senior police officer, told Israel Radio.

The blast, at the start of the Israeli work week, ripped through a bus travelling from the northern port of Haifa to the city of Safed.

Witnesses described an explosion that engulfed the vehicle in a fireball and blew off its roof.

Israeli buses on Sunday morning are usually packed with soldiers returning to base after weekend leave.

The explosion occurred four days after a bomb at an international students' centre in Jerusalem's Hebrew University killed seven people, including five Americans.

Emergency numbers:
Rambam Medical Center, Haifa: 12 55 144
Poriya Hospital, Tiberias: 12 55 162
Rebecca Sieff Hospital, Safed: 12 55 161