Children among suicide bomber's 11 dead victims in Israel
Children among suicide bomber's 11 dead victims
21/11/2002 - 18:17:12
Four schoolchildren were among 11 Israeli’s killed when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on a packed bus in Jerusalem today.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon immediately convened his security Cabinet to plan the military response.
The 23-year-old from Bethlehem, wearing a bomb belt, boarded the bus full of children and soldiers during morning rush hour.
The four children who died were aged between eight and 16.
The Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility and now Israel might retake the West Bank town of Jesus’ birth from which it withdrew in August.
Maor Kimche, 15, said he had just boarded the bus when the blast went off. “Suddenly, it was black and smoky. There were people on the floor. Everything was bloody. There was glass everywhere and body parts,” he said.
The teenager, who had been en route to school in the centre of Jerusalem jumped out of a bus window and was scooped up by a taxi driver who took him to a nearby hospital where he was treated for a leg injury.
The youngster said the bus was crowded with high school students, soldiers and elderly passengers. He said he’d ride the bus again once he was well. “How else will I get to school?” he asked.
The blast blew out the bus windows. A torso that had fallen over the side of the bus was covered with a white-and-blue checked blanket. Sandwiches and schoolbooks lay scattered in the street.
As rescue workers removed the dead from the bus, the bodies were placed in black plastic bags that were numbered and laid out in a row along a sidewalk.
At least 48 people were wounded, eight of them very seriously, authorities said. Israel Radio said many of the casualties were children, though hospital officials declined to give a breakdown.
Israeli police identified the bomber as Nael Abu Hilail, 23.
His father, Azmi, said he was pleased with his son. “Our religion says we are proud of him until the day of resurrection,” Abu Hilail said. “This is a challenge to the Zionist enemies.” He said Israeli troops had arrested another son and a nephew soon after the bombing.
Several of Nael Abu Hilail’s friends said he was a supporter of the Islamic Jihad group. However, Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was avenging the death of the commander of its military wing, Saleh Shehadeh, killed by an Israeli air strike on Gaza City in July.
Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Sharon, said efforts to bring about a limited truce and withdraw from some Palestinian areas seem futile.
“All our efforts to hand over areas and all the talk about a possible ceasefire, that was all window dressing because on the ground there was a continuous effort to carry out as many terrorist activities as possible,” he said.
Gissin accused the Palestinian Authority of assisting the attackers.
Ghassan Khatib, the Palestinian labour minister, held Israel responsible, saying Sharon’s strikes against militants provoked more Palestinian attacks.
“Sharon and his policies are responsible for the continuation of violence,” he said.
Islamic militants said attacks would continue, despite efforts by Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to negotiate a freeze in attacks at least until Israel’s general election in January.
A continuation of bombings and shootings – there have been scores in the past 26 months of fighting – would strengthen Israel’s right-wing parties.
President George Bush condemned the bombing, but said it remained the United States’ goal to see two independent states – Israel and Palestine – living side-by-side in peace.