- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian suicide bomber detonated a nail-studded bomb in a packed Jerusalem pizzeria at lunchtime yesterday, killing 15 persons and wounding 130 others in one of the bloodiest attacks to date in the latest cycle of Mideast violence.
Israel responded quickly with a bombing attack by F-16 fighter planes early this morning on the main Palestinian police headquarters building west of Ramallah in the West Bank. The site was destroyed, but there were no early reports of casualties in the retaliatory attack.
The force of the Jerusalem blast tore victims' bodies to pieces and smashed up concrete and metal inside the Sbarro restaurant, which had been packed with families dining out together in the waning weeks of summer vacation. At least six children were among the dead.
For Jerusalem residents accustomed to suicide bombings, the scene of the attack offered a mixture of the familiar and the grotesque: a gutted shop littered with concrete debris, bloodied victims writhing in pain, body parts and human tissue strewn on the pavement.
"I saw torn-up people on the sidewalk," said Nehemia Gur, a witness who had been striding away from the restaurant at one of the city's busiest intersections when the bomb exploded. "I knelt down to help an injured woman. She was covered in blood. I knew right off that she was dead."
Ultra-Orthodox body collectors using tweezers picked human flesh off two baby carriages sitting on the pavement outside the rest-aurant. Observing Jewish law, the men carefully put the flesh into plastic bags for a religious burial.
One American tourist died in the attack. Police identified her as Judith Greenbaum of New Jersey. A New York City resident, Hanna Tova Nachemberg, 31, was critically wounded at the restaurant.
The Islamic militant Hamas group claimed responsibility for the bombing, the worst attack in Jerusalem since Israeli-Palestinian fighting erupted 10 months ago. The death toll was only exceeded in recent months by a similar suicide bombing outside a Tel Aviv night club in June that killed 21.
The bomber, identified as 23-year-old Izzedine Masri from the Jenin area in the West Bank, stepped in the Sbarro restaurant, part of a New York-based chain, just before 2 p.m., wearing an estimated 10 pounds of explosives on his torso, police said.
He stepped towards the counter, where customers were placing their orders, reached up and detonated the explosives. A Foreign Ministry official said five members of one family, recent immigrants from Holland, died in the blast, including the mother, father and three children. Three other children from the same family were wounded.
"We are in a war," Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said after the blast. "We will act together with the government of Israel to reach every one of those who is responsible for terror, to hit them and kill them."
At Shaarei Zedek hospital, the emergency room resembled a grisly nursery.
"Many of the children are doing OK, but because of their fright, we're leaving them here overnight for observation," said Dr. Natan Guterer.
Jerusalem resident Anat Amar, who had taken her four children to the restaurant just to get out of the house, remembers cutting pizza for her 2-year-old when the bomb went off.
"My daughter fell from the chair and flew through the bombed-out window, with all the furniture falling on top of her," said Mrs. Amar from her hospital bed, her arm and leg bandaged. In the melee, she and two of her children were taken to a hospital up the road, while her two other sons, ages 7 and 9, were lifted into an ambulance and driven to another hospital across town.
Hours elapsed before she traced them by phone. Hospital officials said at least five persons were fighting for their lives.
Surgeons worked frantically yesterday, plucking metal fragments from the bodies of the wounded. According to Ilan Franco, deputy police commander in Jerusalem, the assailant wrapped the bomb in nails and bolts to make it more lethal.
Despite the Hamas statement, Israel's government immediately blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, accusing him of encouraging his people to strike ruthlessly at civilians.
The Palestinian leader, who condemned the attack, called for an immediate cease-fire, an offer denounced by Israel as a trick. Mr. Arafat made the announcement after receiving a phone call from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
President Bush, in a statement issued from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, "strongly deplored" the attack. Israeli commentators noted that Mr. Bush's remarks did not include a call for Israeli restraint, an appeal made after similar Palestinian strikes.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met Cabinet ministers and security officials in Tel Aviv through much of last night to discuss possible reprisal strategies. Even before the strike at the police headquarters, one of Mr. Sharon's advisers hinted that the Israeli reaction might be directed at Mr. Arafat himself.
"There will be a proper response," said Sharon adviser Raanan Gissin. "I believe [there will be] a response that will exact a price from those who continue to perpetrate acts of terror while their mouths speak words of peace."
The first round came just after 2 a.m. this morning as the F-16 fighter planes struck at a police station in Ramallah, setting it on fire.
Israel also said today that police officers and special forces entered and closed the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization in East Jerusalem in the wake of the bombing attack.
Palestinian lawmaker Hatem Abdel-Qader said Israeli forces arrested two guards at the complex and were searching the offices of the compound, a frequent site of foreign diplomatic visits.
The suicide attack raised to 150 the number of Israelis killed in the violence. Palestinians, who have suffered more than 500 fatalities since the fighting broke out last September, erupted in celebration in parts of the West Bank and Gaza and in Lebanon when news of the bombing broke.
But Mr. Arafat, in what Israelis viewed as a bid to soften the anticipated retaliation, condemned the act. "I denounce the bombing attack that took place in West Jerusalem and I denounce all acts that harm civilians," he told the Reuters news agency.
"I call on the Israeli government to immediately make a joint declaration for a cease-fire and to begin implementing Mitchell's recommendations under international supervision," he added, referring to a report issued in May by a panel led by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, Maine Democrat.

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