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Israel Suffers 2 More Attacks
Palestinian Gunmen, Bomber Leave 13 Dead, Scores Injured

Lee Hockstader and Daniel Williams . Washington Post . 13 march 2002

JERUSALEM, March 9 – Palestinian gunmen and a Palestinian suicide bomber carried out back-to-back attacks tonight in the Israeli coastal resort of Netanya and in Jerusalem, killing at least 13 people and injuring scores in yet another burst of bloodshed that defied international appeals for peace.

Hour after hour, Israeli television showed the carnage, switching back and forth from the blood-spattered victims of the shooting attack at two hotels near the beach in Netanya to the gutted remains of a popular cafe in Jerusalem shattered by the suicide bomber. Regular programming was preempted by images of sobbing teenagers, shattered windows, bellowing police officers, stretchers being wheeled into hospitals and the flashing lights of ambulances.

All but two of the Israeli dead were at the Jerusalem cafe, called Moment, where the bomber blew himself up in the courtyard entryway, littering the area with bodies and blood. Blood was visible 12 feet high, on the eaves of the cafe entrance just above the door. More than 50 people were injured.

The cafe is a block from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's official residence in central Jerusalem, but Sharon, who spends most of his weekends at his farm in southern Israel, was not in town at the time.

[Early Sunday, Israeli helicopters destroyed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Gaza City in a missile attack, Palestinian security sources told the Reuters news service.

[At least 30 missiles hit the seaside compound, which was empty at the time of the attack.]

The attacks took place hours after Israeli tanks and troops stormed into a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem, pressing ahead with a fierce military offensive that has killed more than 100 Palestinians this month – including more than 40 on Friday alone – despite the pleas for calm from the United States, Europe and Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo.

Including tonight's casualties, at least 40 Israelis also have been killed in violence this month.

"We are in a war and the battle line is our houses," said Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, speaking to journalists near the scene of the bombing. "They want blood, they want Jewish blood and lots of it."

In the West Bank town of Ramallah, north of Jerusalem, Palestinians celebrated news of the attacks, which many regarded as just revenge for the devastating Israeli attacks against Palestinians in recent days. In Gaza, leaders of the Islamic Resistance Movement, known as Hamas, promised more violence.

"It's logical, from a people of dignity who have been bombed and massacred every day," said Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas spokesman. "There will be bigger reactions."

Hamas took responsibility for the bombing in Jerusalem, which it said was carried out by Fuad Ismail Hourani, a student at a teachers' college in Ramallah. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed militia associated with Arafat's Fatah movement, said it carried out the shooting in Netanya, which was at least the sixth attack there since the current round of violence erupted here in September 2000.

Rarely in the long history of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has their mutual capacity for inflicting suffering and death been so garishly displayed as in the last 48 hours. Adolescents, children, mothers and grandparents have been among the casualties on both sides, and there was every indication of more bloodshed to come.

Even before the Palestinian attacks this evening, Israeli forces were reported to be massing near the Palestinian city of Qalqilya, in the northern West Bank. Israeli war planes and helicopter gunships struck Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip and at least three West Bank cities, Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron. Israeli troops besieged a Palestinian village near the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, ordering all Palestinian men to surrender.

In the West Bank's Tulkarm refugee camp, which Israeli forces attacked starting Thursday, Israeli troops rounded up hundreds of Palestinian men and teenage boys and imprisoned them in an army base near the town of Ramallah, both sides reported today. Israel said about 500 men were being screened to determine which are suspected of carrying out attacks on Israelis; Palestinians said more than 600 had been arrested.

Perhaps the largest Israeli army was in Deheishe, a refugee camp of 8,000 Palestinians just south of Bethlehem. After cutting off the camp earlier in the day, Israeli forces swept in at dusk, badly damaging a Palestinian cultural center, kindergarten and Internet facility at the entrance and moving into the camp's warren of tangled streets and alleyways.

There was little resistance. Most of the young men and armed militants had slipped away earlier, leaving mainly the camp's women, children and elderly residents in their homes when the Israeli troops raided. Just north of the camp, in the biblical town of Bethlehem, knots of Palestinian fighters congregated in the town center within a mile of Nativity Square.

After the attacks in Israel tonight, Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles at a car belonging to a top militant in the Brigades. But the militant, Samer Awais, was not in the car at the time; his brother, Abdel Kareen, was, and he was killed. At least two other Palestinians were killed in Bethlehem refugee camps, including a 15-year-old girl, according to Palestinian hospital officials.

"What alternative do we have?" said Gideon Meir, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman. "The war against terror is a long one. It's not over from one day to the other."

Meir, Olmert and other Israeli officials blamed European governments for the violence, insisting that the Palestinians had been encouraged by Europe's condemnation of the Israeli offensive against Palestinian towns and refugee camps.

"I'm very afraid this won't be the last time we meet in such circumstances – there's no way to hermetically seal a city like Jerusalem," said Olmert.

It was the second straight week of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians on a Saturday evening, when the streets of Israeli cities are thronged with people marking the end of the Jewish Sabbath.

In Jerusalem, where there have been almost constant warnings of imminent terrorist attacks, many people continue to try to live some semblance of a normal life, including going out to restaurants and cafes. So the Moment cafe, a trendy place of blond wood furniture and tall seats at the bar, was thronged, with a long line of people at the door waiting to get in. That was where Hourani, the suicide bomber, triggered a thunderous explosion around 10:30 p.m.

"The force pushed us to floor," said Ran Yaacoby, an Israeli diplomat. "I grabbed a table and put it on top of us. I helped a woman to get out the window."

Ilan Gordon, the cafe owner, said he had only recently hired a security guard. "I said to pay attention, the important thing is that people should leave here healthy and whole," he told journalists, sobbing in front of the television cameras. "I don't know how I'll be able to look anyone in the face. I can't begin to describe to you how they looked, the bodies were torn apart and blown up and bleeding."

The shooting attack in Netanya had occurred only two and a half hours earlier, shortly after 8 p.m. A resort popular with Israeli tourists, Netanya sits on the Mediterranean just eight miles west of Tulkarm, on Israel's slender northern neck. It has been the target of at least six terrorist attacks in the last 17 months, and many others before the current Palestinian armed uprising.

Tonight, at least two Palestinian gunmen threw grenades and fired assault rifles into the lobbies of two adjacent hotels on a busy street lined with hotels, shops and cafes. Both were shot dead by Israeli police. At least one of the gunmen was dressed as an Israeli police officer, and in the initial mayhem it was unclear who was an assailant and whether there had been one or two other shooters who escaped.

At least two people were killed – a woman and a baby – and more than 40 injured, five of them seriously.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company