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>Israel Faxx
>JN Sept. 5, 1997, Vol. 5. No. 163

Dead and Wounded Cover Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Mall

By VOA's Al Pessin (Jerusalem), David Gollust (Martha's Vineyard), Douglas Roberts (Cairo)

Three bombs exploded in a crowded shopping area in central Jerusalem Thursday, just one week before Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is due to visit to try to re-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The militant Palestinian group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack in a message faxed to foreign news agencies, and said attacks will continue until all Hamas prisoners are released.

Three explosions echoed through downtown, followed by the wail of sirens and the screams of victims and witnesses. It once again turned Jerusalem's downtown into a shattered zone of death and injury, tears and fear -- exactly what terrorists aim to do.

Suddenly there were explosions and glass everywhere in Jerusalem's central pedestrian promenade -- it was crowded with local residents and tourists out for a stroll or a coffee on a lovely late summer afternoon.

Moments later, victims, body parts, blood, and broken glass were strewn on the cobblestones. Chairs and tables were overturned, cafe umbrellas were broken and twisted. A foreign student from Canada, 16-year-old Elazar Gabay, was there when the bombs went off.

"The first bomb exploded, so I got very scared, I ran a little further, the second one exploded, so I ran a little further and the third one exploded. There is nothing really to see besides glass, blood and people. In the Atara cafe I saw people on the floor."

Three young men who identified themselves only as Michael, Yaron and Aaron were playing cards in a cafe near the explosions. "We saw many people bleeding, dismembered body parts on the street, blood flowing, everything. Disgusting. The streets were covered with glass, and blood, and blood, and bones. It was slick, tough to walk on."

One of his friends, Aaron, remembered the moment the first bomb went off. "We did feel the shock ourselves, it shook our tables. Our table moved. There was a dead person lying inside the Burger King, on the floor, somebody whose body had been dissected by a bomb.

Police sealed off the attack site, fearing initially more bombs could go off, and also to allow emergency workers to do their jobs. They rolled stretcher after stretcher bearing bloodied victims onto waiting ambulances and sped away.

On the fringes of the scene, women cried and people walked around as if in a daze, unable to believe they had been so close to such an event.

Israel immediately re-imposed the closure on the Palestinian areas, which had been imposed after the market bombing and had just been eased slightly Tuesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited injured in a local hospital and then convened his security cabinet. His senior spokesman, David Bar Illan, told Israel Radio the bombings prove Israel's point -- that the only subject to be discussed with the Palestinian Authority at this time is a crackdown on terrorist groups.

"Unless Arafat really cracks down on the infrastructure of terrorism, by that I mean on the organizations themselves, unless that is done I don't see how the peace process can proceed. He can not be a peace partner on the one hand and an encourager of terrorism and an inciter for terrorism on the other."

Netanyahu said the peace process will not continue unless the Palestinian Authority carries out a major crackdown on militant groups. And he said Israel will do so itself if it has to.

President Clinton, vacationing in Massachusetts, condemned the bombings -- and announced Albright's planned trip to the Middle East next week will go forward. Clinton said the multiple bomb attack was aimed at killing both innocent people and the Middle East peace process itself.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak condemned the bombing and said it will only reinforce his determination to push forward with the peace process. The Egyptian president telephoned Yasir Arafat to discuss the bombing and its possible impact on the peace process.

Arafat also said Israeli-imposed closures of his territories will not solve the terrorism problem. Other Palestinian officials condemned the bombing, but said only progress in the peace process will bring true security.

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