- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2001

JERUSALEM A Palestinian suicide bomber detonated a nail-studded explosive inside a crowded Jerusalem pizzeria at lunchtime today, killing 15 people, wounding almost 90 and provoking a wave of Israeli outrage.
Islamic Jihad and Hamas, militant Palestinian groups that have been carrying out bomb attacks against Israel for years, both claimed responsibility for the bombing at Sbarro, a New York-based chain.
As Israelis mourned the dead including several children and hospitals struggled to save the critically injured, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon faced a major decision on how to respond to the attack, the second deadliest in more than 10 months of fighting.
Mr. Sharon has pledged to hit back hard against Palestinian terror attacks, but such a strike could send violence spiraling out of control. The Israeli leader refrained from military action following a suicide attack two months ago that left 22 dead, pressuring Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to declare a cease-fire.
But with the truce in shambles, few were in the mood for restraint.
“We are in a war,'' Jerusalem's Mayor Ehud Olmert said after today's 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.''
President Bush condemned the bombing and demanded that Mr. Arafat arrest those responsible.
“Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat must condemn this horrific terrorist attack, act now to arrest and bring to justice those responsible and take immediate, sustained action to prevent future terrorist attacks,'' Mr. Bush said.
Dore Gold, an adviser to Sharon, said Arafat had “completely failed to fulfill the terms of the cease-fire and as a result, we have the disaster that occurred in Jerusalem today.''
Carrying a bomb concealed in a bag, the assailant entered the packed restaurant on the corner of two of Jerusalem's busiest downtown streets, Jaffa and King George, and set off the explosive, spraying shrapnel in a deafening blast.
In a scene of chaos and anguish, the injured lay bleeding in the street, which was covered with shards of glass. Some who were traumatized but unhurt huddled on the street and wept. The restaurant was gutted by the blast its windows blown out, chairs, tables and other debris littering the sidewalk.
Anat Amar was serving pizza to her four children “when I heard a huge crash over my head and there was lots of smoke and my little girl flew down with all the chairs on top of her.''
“I shouted to my eldest boy and he dived over and picked her up and ran with her across the road,'' Ms. Amar told Israeli television. She picked up the others and followed. They suffered only minor injuries.
Orthodox Jewish volunteers picked through the rubble to recover pieces of flesh and traces of blood in order ensure proper Jewish burials.
In the street, some young Israelis chanted, “Death to Arabs!'' and wore T-shirts that read, “No Arabs no attacks.'' In a busy market a few blocks from the scene of the attack, Israelis punched and kicked Palestinians.
Islamic Jihad, in a fax sent to The Associated Press office in Beirut, Lebanon, said the bombing was carried out by one of their activists, Hussein Omar Abu Amsheh, 23. The bombing was “a part of our response to the cowardly assassinations'' that Israel is carrying out against Palestinians, it said, adding that more suicide bombers “are on their way.''
Later, Hamas' military wing said the bombing was the work of Izzedine al-Masri, 23, calling the attack revenge for an Israeli helicopter raid last week that killed eight people in Nablus, including two Hamas leaders.
More than 550 people on the Palestinian side and more than 140 on the Israeli side have been killed since hostilities broke out in September.
Several hours after the attack, Mr. Arafat's office issued a statement condemning “all attacks against civilians, Israelis and Palestinians,'' and calling on Israel to “issue a declaration for a joint and comprehensive cease-fire.''
Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said Israel brought the attacks on itself with its policy of “assassination of Palestinian civilians and leaders.''
Near Tel Aviv, Mr. Sharon met with his Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and other top officials, but did not issue any statements.
Israel's army has been preparing various scenarios for an Israeli response, the most extreme of which could include temporary takeovers of Palestinian areas to arrest or kill militants.
Mr. Arafat received a call from Secretary of State Colin Powell and urged the U.S. administration to put pressure on Israel to “stop incitement,'' according to an Arafat aide.
Mideast peace negotiations collapsed in January amid the fighting and Sharon has demanded a halt to the violence before they will be revived.
Before today's bombing, Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Mr. Sharon's refusal to negotiate with the Palestinians until all violence stops gives a veto to extremists.
“If we say we won't talk under fire, it means that every gunman can decide there will be no dialogue,'' Mr. Peres said.
In other violence today, two Israelis were killed. An Israeli soldier was shot and killed near the West Bank town of Tulkarem. Shortly afterward, Israeli tanks shelled a security checkpoint in Tulkarem, wounding three Palestinians.
A 19-year-old Israeli woman was killed and three other Israelis were wounded when their car was hit in ambush shooting near the dividing line between Israel proper and the West Bank, police said.

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