RISHON LETZION, Israel (AP) – Twin Palestinian suicide bombings
– one at a bus stop crowded with soldiers near Tel Aviv, the second
five hours later at a popular Jerusalem nightspot – killed at least
14 Israelis and wounded dozens as the region grappled with a new
wave of savage bloodletting.
There were no claims of responsibility, but the Islamic militant
group Hamas, which has carried out most of the roughly 100 suicide
bombings against Israelis over the last three years, had been
expected to avenge Israel’s attempt on the life of its spiritual
leader on Saturday.
Israel’s military has relentlessly targeted Hamas militants
since the group claimed a suicide bombing last month that killed 22
people on a Jerusalem bus. Earlier yesterday, Israeli troops in
Hebron killed two Hamas members – including the group’s leader in
the West Bank town – and a 12-year-old bystander, and blew up a
seven-story apartment building where the militants were hiding
The day’s violence came amid political uncertainty after the
resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, with an
increasing number of Israeli officials calling for the expulsion of
Yasser Arafat and expectations mounting that Israel will step up
military strikes and possibly invade the Gaza Strip – which Israel
has not yet reoccupied – to root out the Hamas leadership.
Security was tight throughout the country, especially in
Jerusalem, in anticipation of a Hamas attack.
The first bombing came about 6 p.m., as soldiers were waiting
for rides home outside the Tsrifin army base near the Tel Aviv
suburb of Rishon Letzion.
Cpl. Eyal Schneider, 20, was walking toward the bus stop when he
heard the explosion and saw a fireball. “People were running from
the bus stop shouting ‘bomb! bomb!’ he said.”
Ambulances from nearby Assaf Harofeh hospital quickly lined up
at the scene, rescue workers rushing to aid screaming victims.”I
saw the bodies, the body parts strewn around, heard the screams,
and tried to help,” said one witness, who gave his name only as