Thursday, August 01, 2002
U.S. Ambassador Visits Site of Jerusalem Terror Blast
Janice Ruth Coulter
|JERUSALEM — Wednesday's terror bombing that killed seven people
in Jerusalem, five of them American citizens, hit home for the U.S. ambassador
to Israel -- he once studied at Hebrew University.
"We have grieved with all the people of Israel as they have faced Palestinian terrorism," said Daniel Kurtzer Thursday as he laid a wreath at the cafeteria in the Frank Sinatra International Students Center, devastated by a package bomb at lunchtime the previous day. "Now that five American citizens have been killed, our grief is even deeper."
The three American residents killed were identified as Benjamin Blutstein, 25, of Susquehanna Township, Pa.; Marla Bennett, 24, of San Diego; and Janis Ruth Coulter, 36, who lived in Brooklyn, N.Y.
David Gritz, 24, who held dual American-French citizenship, was also killed.
The fifth American victim, Dina Carter, 37, also had Israeli citizenship and was to be buried there, police said. Many Israelis and Palestinians hold American citizenship.
The two slain Israelis, Lavina Shapira, 53, and David Ludovisky, 29, were to be buried Thursday in Jerusalem.
The 80 wounded included four Americans and three South Koreans as well as Israeli Jews and Arabs.
Kurtzer, who took Middle Eastern studies at the university in 1969-70, placed a wreath in front of the cafeteria Thursday and observed a moment of silence.
"The terrorist murderers -- those who sent them and those whose action and inaction contributed to this despicable act -- have descended to a new depth of depravity," he said. "They have violated the sanctuary of a university, in which Israelis, Arabs, Jews, Muslims and Christians study together."
President Bush mourned the American dead as he met Thursday with King Abdullah of Jordan on how to move the Mideast peace process forward.
"I am just as angry as Israel is. I am furious.... But even though I am mad, I still think peace is possible," the president said at a picture-taking session with the king at the start of a meeting in the Oval Office.
Israeli military and police forces beefed up their presence in Israel and the West Bank on Thursday.
The Islamic militant group Hamas took responsibility for the blast, which shattered the cafeteria at the Frank Sinatra International Student Center at the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University, a popular gathering spot for Jewish, Arab and foreign students.
Unlike other recent Palestinian attacks, Wednesday's blast was not a suicide bombing. The bomb, laden with nails and other metal objects, was in a bag left on a table in the center of the cafeteria and was detonated remotely by a cellular phone, said an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Police detained a number of Arab university employees on suspicion of having aided the bomber, said a police official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The student newspaper, Student Legends, had printed two articles in April warning of lax security at the university, including one that imagined a suicide bomber blowing himself up inside the Sinatra cafeteria, killing seven people, said editor-in-chief Yaniv Tohorylef.
He said the cafeteria was in a particularly vulnerable position near a fence, and the newspaper's scenario envisioned the bomber scaling the fence onto campus. At the time, the university assured students security was under control, he said Thursday.
On Thursday, Israeli police canceled training courses and put officers, including those with administrative jobs, on active duty in Jerusalem and elsewhere, police said. Checkpoints were also erected in the Sharon area of central Israel amid alerts that Palestinians had entered from the West Bank.
In the West Bank town of Nablus, Israeli troops who had remained on the edge of town moved into the city center. Residents who had defied the army-imposed curfew for four days stayed in their houses.
In new violence Thursday, an Israeli man, his hands and feet bound, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head in his factory office near the Palestinian town of Tulkarem in the northern West Bank, police and the army said.
Brig. Gen. Gershon Yitzhak, the division commander of the West Bank, told Israel Radio the man had been killed by Palestinians taking advantage of the lifted curfew in Tulkarem on Thursday.
Two Palestinian universities -- Al Quds, on the edge of Jerusalem, and Bethlehem University -- sent their condolences to the families of victims of Wednesday's bombing.
In an ad published Thursday in the Israeli daily Haaretz, the universities said they "share in your sorrow over the murder of your dear ones and the repugnant attack."
Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority said in a statement that it "absolutely condemns the attack against Hebrew University." However, the Palestinian leadership also said it "considers Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon responsible for this cycle of terror."
The 22-month Palestinian-Israeli conflict has seen more than 70 Palestinian suicide bombings, killing more than 250 bystanders. Wednesday's attack was one of the deadliest attacks not perpetrated by suicide bombers.
It came as Israel's Security Cabinet considered ways to stop or at least hinder suicide bombers, including measures such as expelling relatives of bombers from the relatively prosperous West Bank to poverty-stricken, crowded Gaza or destroying their houses.
Israeli troops control seven of the eight main Palestinian centers in the West Bank, moving in after back-to-back suicide bomb attacks in Jerusalem June 18-19. The university bombing and a suicide attack the day before were the first in Jerusalem since the incursions.
The attack occurred on the eve of the release of a U.N. report into the Israeli military actions in the West Bank town of Jenin in March. The report rejected Palestinian claims that 500 Palestinians were killed, but criticized both sides for putting civilian lives at risk, Western diplomats said in New York.
In the town of Beit Jalla, next to Bethlehem, the Israeli military destroyed the family house of 17-year-old Hazem Atta Sarasara, who carried out a suicide bombing attack on Tuesday in Jerusalem that wounded seven Israelis, the military said in a statement. Military sources said the destruction was a deterrent measure.
On Thursday, Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Jenin also demolished the home of an Islamic Jihad activist arrested earlier this week, residents said. The army said it was checking the report.
Israeli troops control seven of the eight main Palestinian centers in the West Bank, moving in after back-to-back suicide bomb attacks in Jerusalem June 18-19. The university bombing and a suicide attack the day before were the first bombings in Jerusalem since the takeover.
In Gaza, where Hamas is strongest,
about 10,000 Palestinians celebrated in the streets over the cafeteria
attack, calling for more "martyrdom operations," as they term suicide bombings.
A leading Hamas official, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, said Thursday it did not matter that mostly Americans, and not Israelis, were killed in Wednesday's attack since it was an attack against Israeli occupation.
"We are fighting on our occupied land, and we didn't go to America or France," he said. "It is better for America and France to advise their citizen not to go to a war and resistance territories."
Spencer Dew, 26, an American student from Owensboro, Ky., who was lightly wounded by flying glass, said he had worried about such attacks in Israel, "but it didn't deter me from coming. I assume I'll come back next year."
Hebrew University was one of the few places where Jews and Arabs could still mingle freely.
On Thursday, a few students milled about near the cafeteria, some of them lighting memorial candles as workers boarded up the shattered windows. Four students held up signs saying "This failure was not in security," and "Assassination and terror attack."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.