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Palestinian Terrorists Murder 10 in Jerusalem Bus Explosion

By & VOA News

Ten people were killed, and another 13 are in very critical or critical condition, after a suicide terrorist blew up on a public city bus in a central Jerusalem neighborhood, on the corners of Arlozorov and Gaza streets, Thursday morning.

Medics on the scene said that it was one of the worst sights they had ever seen; the explosives destroyed the bus almost totally, and caused the floor to collapse, trapping and burying victims underneath. The explosion took place only dozens of meters from the Prime Minister's residence. Sharon was not in the area at the time.

The force of the explosion on a residential street close to the downtown area of Jerusalem blew off part of the bus's roof and shattered windows. Eyewitnesses say they saw some of the dead lying near the burnt out wreckage of the vehicle. Police sealed off the area as ambulances rushed the wounded to nearby hospitals.

It took almost eight hours before the first of the 10 victims could be identified: Eli Tzafira, 47, of Jerusalem. The bodies were taken to Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Jaffa. Israel's Foreign Ministry posted a video of the terror site taken moments after the explosion The site includes a cautionary note that the video "contains very graphic footage," but Foreign Ministry spokesman Yoni Peled said, "We wanted to bring the difficult feelings and sights that Israelis are undergoing to the attention of the public." The video is likely to be included in Israel's affidavit at The Hague's counter-terrorism wall deliberations tomorrow.

The attack - the first one that Palestinian terrorists were able to perpetrate in over five months, due to intense intelligence and security work - took place only minutes before Elchanan Tenenbaum was transferred to Israeli hands in Germany as part of the prisoner/hostage deal. Some analysts said that the Palestinians thus wished to offstage Hizbullah in the competition between them regarding which terrorist group could make Israel bleed more. Others say that the Palestinian terrorists are miffed that "only" 400 of their number are being freed in the exchange. It has been repeatedly emphasized, however, that attempted Palestinian terrorist attacks of this nature are almost a daily occurrence.

Fifty people are reported wounded in the explosion, but the number is expected to rise as shock victims report to hospitals on their own. The explosion took place on a #19 bus on its way from Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital to the northern parts of the city, very close to the Moment Cafe where 11 people were killed on March 9, 2002 in another Palestinian terrorist suicide attack.

The names of those killed released for publication so far are: Dana Ituch, 24, from the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood of Jerusalem; Eli Tsefira, 48, of Jerusalem; Hana Anya Bunder, 38, of Jerusalem; Baruch Hondiashvili, 38, of Jerusalem; Avraham Balachson, 29, of Jerusalem; Rose Boneh, 39, of Jerusalem; Octavian Floresco Viorel, 41, of Jerusalem; Natalia Gamril, 50, of Jerusalem; and Yehezkel Issar Goldberg, 42, of Betar Elite.

Hizbullah Television has reported that the Fatah affiliated terrorist group known as the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack in Jerusalem. The bomber, Ali Yusuf Jaara, a resident of Bethlehem, was an officer in the Palestinian police.

A Sharon spokesman, Raanan Gissin, said the bombing has underlined the need for Israel to continue building a security barrier in and around the West Bank. Israel has insisted that the barrier is aimed at preventing Palestinians from crossing over from the West Bank into the Jewish state to carry out suicide bombings and other terror attacks.

Arab prisoners who had been held by Israel were freed at a military airfield in Germany, in exchange for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers. The high-security exchange was part of a German-mediated deal between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hizbullah, which also involved the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

Aircraft from Israel and Lebanon arrived in Cologne early in the morning, carrying the people and the bodies for the exchange. Israeli experts spent several hours confirming the identity of the three bodies. Once that was done, the exchange happened, and Israel released several hundred Palestinian prisoners on the West Bank and delivered the bodies of 59 Arab fighters to the Israel-Lebanon border.

In the early afternoon, the two planes left Cologne - one carrying about 36 mainly Lebanese prisoners heading to Beirut, and the other with the remains of three Israeli soldiers and the freed Israeli businessman heading for Tel Aviv. The complex exchange mediated by Germany happened without a hitch, despite the deadly suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

Security was high at the Cologne-Wahn military airbase as the two jets landed - one painted in the colors of the Israeli air force, the other a German military plane. The planes stood side-by-side in a hangar as forensic experts took approximately four hours to positively identify the three bodies from Beirut as the Israeli soldiers abducted by Hizbullah in October of 2000.

Israel insisted on confirming the identities before it would release its prisoners in exchange for the remains and kidnapped Israeli businessman. In a further part of the deal Germany spent three-years negotiating, Hizbullah is expected to provide Israel with information about its missing air force navigator Ron Arad, who was captured in Lebanon in 1986. If that information is delivered, Israel has agreed to release Lebanese militant Samir Qantar, who has been held in Israeli jails since 1979.

In the exchange, Israel released Senior Hizbullah official Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, who it kidnapped in 1989, apparently hoping to trade him for Ron Arad.

Reporter's Notebook: Gruesome Scene on Perfectly Normal Day in Jerusalem

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

According to Israeli officials the bus bombing Thursday morning in Jerusalem was the 28th in the past three and a half years and the first suicide bombing in the city since last September. The latest bombing took place on one of the main east-west thoroughfares in west Jerusalem, the route Correspondent Larry James takes to work every day. Here are his thoughts on the bombing and on one day in the life of Jerusalem.

Azza Street is only two lanes wide and is quite busy most mornings. My route joins Azza at a point where it begins winding its way up a long hill toward the center of the city's business district. Some mornings the armed guards stationed at the home of Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Azza Street stop traffic to allow the cabinet minister to leave for work, compounding what is usually a very slow trip. Most days, though, it is just a steady, if slow crawl, up the street in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I was in the office early this morning, so I had passed the scene of the blast at least 30 minutes before it occurred. But as I passed this morning, the normal routine was interrupted by the woman in a car ahead of me that was just inching along allowing a large gap to develop between her vehicle and a bus that had just pulled away from a stop.

At first a bit irritated at her slow pace, my anger quickly faded when I saw she had a small child, maybe three or four years old, riding in a car seat in the back of her vehicle. Maybe I would be keeping my distance from a Jerusalem bus too, if I had a child in my car, I thought.

I had only been in the office a few minutes when the phone rang. It was our office administrator telling me there had been a bombing at the intersection of Azza and Arlozorov streets, just a short distance from the VOA bureau. In minutes I was there.

Police and rescue workers were just arriving. It was a gruesome scene. I moved to within perhaps 20 yards of the bus. The back half had been torn away. The sheet metal pulled back and in places blown into the apartment buildings that line both sides of the street.

Several bodies could still be seen sitting in their bus seats, the bodies grotesquely disfigured by the force of the explosives. One body, a woman I think, sat upright, the face and neck blackened by the explosion, head tilted back, hair blown away from the face and frozen in a gruesome reflection of the force of the blast.

As I approached the bus I became aware of a crunching sound as I stepped onto a layer of shattered glass from the bus's windows. I glanced at my feet and avoiding stepping on a human tooth and what looked like part of an eyebrow.

Even though police and rescue workers were still arriving, the Zaka were already on the scene. Zaka are religious volunteers who collect human remains, an act they consider a sacred duty. They had not yet begun their work, so as I looked I could see there were two bodies still lying on the side of the road. It was impossible to tell if they had been blown from the bus or if they had had the great misfortune of being on the sidewalk when the bus exploded. It was not hard to imagine what could have happened to anyone walking nearby or riding in a car behind the bus.

In that same moment I thought back to a half hour earlier where, on that same stretch of road, a careful mother had taken precautions to protect her child.

Because, If You Don't Cry, Who Will?

By Yechezkel Chezi Goldberg

(Editor's Note: The author of the cited article was a counselor for at risk teens. He was a host for the Arutz Sheva program "Youth Beat." Goldberg, originally from Toronto, died in Thursday's terrorist bus bombing in Jerusalem.

The scene: 7:30 a.m. Israel time, Sunday Dec. 2, 2001 -- Eight hours after the triple terror attack at Jerusalem's popular Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Mall.

He walked into shul, synagogue. I nodded my acknowledgement, as I always do. He made some strange gesture, which I didn't comprehend. I continued praying. A few minutes later, he walked over to me and said: "Didn't you hear?"

"Hear about what?" I replied. He grew impatient, almost frustrated. "Didn't you HEAR?" I understood that he was talking about last night's terror attack on Ben Yehuda Mall, a trendy nightspot frequented not only by Israelis, but also Western tourists.

I assumed that he obviously was intimating that someone we knew was hurt or killed. I replied: "About who?" He looked at me as if I had landed from another planet. "About who? About everyone who was attacked last night."

I nodded. "Yes, of course I heard." "Then why aren't YOU crying?" His words shot through me like a spear piercing my heart. Our sages teach, "Words that come from the heart, enter the heart." He was right, of course. Why wasn't I crying? I could not answer. I had nothing to say. He pointed around the shul. "Why aren't all of my friends crying?" I could not answer. I had nothing to say. "Shouldn't we all be crying?" I could not answer. I had nothing to say. What has happened to all of us, myself included? We have turned to stone. Some would call it "numbness." Some would call it "collective national shock." Some would say that we all have suffered never-ending trauma and it has affected our senses.

Frankly, the excuses are worthless. All the reasons in the world don't justify our distance from the real pain that is burning in our midst. When an attack happens, in the heat of the moment, we frantically check to see if someone we know has been hurt or killed. And then, if we find out that "our friends and family are safe," we sigh a deep sigh of relief, grunt and grumble about the latest tragic event and then, we continue with our robotic motions and go on with our lives. We have not lost our minds, my friends. We have lost our hearts. And that is why we keep on losing our lives.

When I left shul, my friend said to me with tears dripping from his bloodshot Eyes: "I heard once that the Torah teaches that for every tear that drops from our eyes, another drop of blood is saved." We are living in a time of absolute madness. It is obvious what is going on around us and yet, we detach ourselves and keep running on automatic in our daily lives.

Last night, when it was only 10 people who were known killed and just 200 injured, even MSNBC referred to the triple terror attack as a "slaughter." And yet, we are not crying. I know a woman who lost sensitivity in her fingers. When she approaches fire, she doesn't feel the pain. That puts her in a very dangerous position because she might be unaware she is burning herself.

If we are being hurt and we don't feel it, then we are in a very risky position. A devastating three-pronged suicide attack on Jerusalem's most popular thoroughfare should evoke a cry of pain and suffering from all of us, should it not? Unless of course, we have lost our senses.

And if we have lost our senses, then what hope is there? When our enemies pound us and we don't react because we no longer feel the pain, we are truly in a dangerous and precarious position in the battle and struggle to survive. Perhaps, my friends, we are being foolish to really believe that the nations of the world should be upset about the continuous murder and slaughter of Jews --- if we ourselves are not crying about it. Am I my brother's keeper?

The most effective way for us to stop the carnage in our midst is to wake up and to react to it from our hearts. How can we DEMAND that the Creator stop the tragedy when most of us react like robots when tragedy strikes?

If WE don't cry about what is happening around us, who will? If YOU don't cry about what is happening around us, who will? If I don't cry about what is happening to us, who will?

Maybe our salvation from this horrific mess will come only after WE tune into our emotions and cry and scream about it. As King Solomon said, "There is a time for everything under the sun." Now is the time for crying. May He protect each and every one of us from our enemies so that we will not have to cry in the future.

(c) 2001, Chezi Goldberg

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