- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2001

JERUSALEM Two suicide bombers detonated nail-studded explosives in a pedestrian mall crowded with young weekend revelers late last night, killing the assailants and at least 10 bystanders and wounding some 150 others.
Minutes after the back-to-back suicide bombings, another bomb went off in a car parked nearby, sending panicked, screaming pedestrians running in all directions. The third bomb apparently was timed to detonate just as Israeli rescue personnel arrived at the chaotic scene.
As the United States anxiously sought a pause in the violence to rebuild the shattered Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called the coordinated bombing attack "one of the worst we have ever seen."
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the militant Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups have threatened to carry out attacks in Israel to avenge the killing of Hamas' military leader in the West Bank in an Israeli missile attack late last month.
The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is in the United States for talks with President Bush and other U.S. officials, promised a "commensurate response" to the latest in a string of suicide bombing attacks.
Sharon spokesman Raanan Gissin told CNN: "There's no doubt that after such an attack we have the full right and believe me we will exercise our right to self-defense and take the necessary measures to prevent these kinds of terrorist activity."
Mr. Bush last night denounced the "hideous murders" and issued a strong admonition to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
"Now more than ever, Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority must demonstrate through their actions, and not merely their words, their commitment to fight terror," Mr. Bush said.
"Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority must immediately find and arrest those responsible for the hideous murders. They must also act swiftly and decisively against the organizations that support them," he said.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and a special U.S. envoy in the Mideast quickly relayed the message directly to Mr. Arafat in similarly stark terms.
Mr. Bush telephoned Mr. Sharon in New York City when the latest bombings occurred to express his condolences directly and arranged to move their meeting at the White House from Monday to today so the prime minister could return to Israel immediately afterward, cutting short a scheduled five-day trip to the United States.
"I was horrified and saddened to learn of the bombings that took place in Jerusalem," Mr. Bush said in a statement issued from the presidential retreat at Camp David. "I strongly condemn them as acts of murder that no person of conscience can tolerate and no cause can ever justify. On behalf of the American people I extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and my friend Prime Minister Sharon and to all the people of Israel."
The new U.S. envoy to the Mideast, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, spoke after the attacks with Mr. Arafat and later issued a pointed challenge to him.
"These despicable actions can only be prevented if the Palestinians act in a comprehensive and sustained manner to root out terrorists and bring them to justice," said Gen. Zinni, who is in Jerusalem conducting his first official tour of the region since assuming his new post.
The Palestinian Authority condemned the terror attacks early this morning, expressing its "deep anger and pain" and accusing those behind the attacks of trying to derail the U.S.-backed peace initiative.
The bombs went off around 11:30 p.m., an hour when the Ben Yehuda mall is usually crowded with young people strolling and sitting at sidewalk cafes.
The bombers were standing about 30 yards from each other, police said.
"There were lots of limbs and dead bodies," said Michael Perry, 37, who ran out of a bar along the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall after hearing the explosions. "I saw three dead and what looked like the remains of the suicide bomber. It was just a lump of something," said Mr. Perry.
Another bystander, Eli Shetreet, 19, said he saw bodies being hurled in the air. "A lot of people were crying, falling, and there was the smell of burning hair," he said.
The blasts were so powerful that they shattered the windows of cars parked a block away. Blood was splattered across store fronts, and bits of flesh and metal bolts from the explosives were strewn on the ground.
Shortly after the suicide bombings, an explosion went off in a car parked near the mall, said Police Chief Mickey Levy. Apparently no one was hurt in that explosion.
At the sound of the third explosion, pedestrians ran up the street in panic.
Police spokesman Gil Kleiman said 170 persons were wounded, many of them in their late teens and 20s. Among the wounded were several in very serious condition.
"This is a great catastrophe. There are many, many casualties," said Health Minister Nissim Dahan, who was touring area hospitals.
"We are almost at the limit of our capacity to take in the wounded."
The Ben Yehuda mall is usually packed with young Israelis on Saturday evenings. The mall has been the target of suicide attacks in the past, including in 1997.
Just up the block, on the corner of King George and Jaffa streets, a suicide bomber blew himself up last summer in a crowded pizzeria, killing himself and 15 diners.
The Bush-Sharon meeting had been expected to be strained, with the United States openly unhappy over recent Israeli incursions into Palestinian territories after the recent assassination of a well-known Israeli Cabinet minister.
Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, did not claim responsibility for last night's attacks on behalf of the group, but said Hamas would continue carrying out attacks.
"We have said several times that we are not going to accept the occupation to remain in our land," said Mr. Rantisi.
"We are fighting Jewish terrorism. We are fighting the killers, and defending our freedom, our stability and our dignity."

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