- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

The U.S. government, while reasserting the right to pursue killers of Americans anywhere in the world, is letting Israel handle the search for those responsible for the deaths of five Americans in a bomb attack in Jerusalem.
President Bush said he was furious over the five deaths at Hebrew University and, at a White House meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, called for action to combat terrorism.
"The first thing we must do is to work hard as a team to uphold our responsibilities and fight off terrorist activities that kill innocent life," Mr. Bush said.
Early today, more than 100 Israeli tanks swept into the West Bank city of Nablus and opened fire with machine guns, killing two Palestinians, witnesses said.
Tanks and armored vehicles, which had formed part of a force that had kept Nablus surrounded and under curfew for weeks, pushed deep into the Palestinian-ruled northern West Bank city under cover of darkness, the witnesses said.
The United States maintains, as a matter of policy, that it has the right to pursue, arrest and prosecute terrorists who kill Americans anywhere in the world, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said Wednesday.
But an FBI spokesman said yesterday that the agency was not planning to send agents to probe the latest killing, as it did in its investigation of the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan and in other incidents.
The bomb on Wednesday, left in a busy university cafeteria at lunchtime, killed seven academics and wounded 70. Asked how he would view an Israeli military response, Mr. Bush said Israel "must defend herself."
"I'm just as angry as Israel is right now. I'm furious about innocent life lost. However, through my fury, even though I am mad, I still believe peace is possible."
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said in Washington that U.S. officials have not asked Israel to let American authorities help investigate the blast.
"The United States trusts Israel to do all that is necessary to defend the lives of Americans," he told reporters after meeting Mr. Bush and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice at the White House and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage at the State Department.
An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, pointed out that Palestinian militants previously have attacked only after careful planning and study of their targets.
"If this was true of this attack, we can't exclude the possibility they knew that foreign students were in the building," he said.
But Mr. Reeker said the United States did not have "any indication at this time" that Americans had been singled out.
"We'll continue, as I said, to be in close contact with Israeli authorities as they pursue an investigation. We'll monitor all sources of information closely to gauge the threat to American citizens."
He also said the United States offers "substantial monetary rewards" for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible "for this or any other international terrorist act against U.S. citizens or property."
The State Department yesterday confirmed the deaths of five American citizens. They included 36-year-old Janis Ruth Coulter, from New York; Benjamin Blutstein, born in 1977, from Pennsylvania; David Gritz, born in 1978 in France, a dual national of the United States and France; and Marla Bennett, born in 1978, from San Diego.
The fifth person's identification was withheld pending notification of his next of kin. Four other Americans remained hospitalized.
The United States has an extradition treaty with Israel that would allow it to seek custody of anyone involved in killing Americans.
Mr. Bush, when asked whether the United States would seek to punish those responsible for killing the five Americans, said, "We're responding all across the globe to murders of Americans."
"We respond in Afghanistan to murders. We responded in the Philippines. We're responding by working with our Arab friends and Israel, of course, to track these people down."
The radical Palestinian group Hamas has already taken responsibility for the attack, saying it was conducted in retaliation for Israel's assassination of Hamas military leader Sheik Salah Shehadeh in Gaza City last week. The airstrike also killed 14 civilians, nine of them children.
Mr. Bush said he planned to discuss with King Abdullah ways to build a Palestinian security force capable of fighting terrorism a key goal of the U.S. Middle East peace plan announced June 24 and to relieve the suffering of Palestinian civilians from Israeli counterterrorism measures, which have shut down most West Bank cities.
But he said corruption must end and that foreign aid must be spent only with confidence that the money "is spent on the people."
King Abdullah said he would discuss with the president "alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people." He praised Mr. Bush, saying he "understands the bigger picture."
"And at the end of the day, peace and stability for the Middle East has been at the forefront of his mind."
Mr. Peres said that despite the bombing, Israel will continue to ease economic restrictions on the Palestinians.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide