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                             ISRAEL
                              FAXX

Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       Feb. 28, 1996 V4, #37
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Dead American Driver May Have Been Terrorist

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli police say they believe an Arab-American who drove his car into a crowd at a bus stop Monday, killing one woman and injuring 23 others, did so intentionally, rather than accidentally. But they are not completely sure. Initially, police labeled the incident a terrorist attack. But they changed their minds when they saw skid marks on the road, and bags of groceries in the car.

But Tuesday, investigators determined one skid mark was from a different car, and the other might have been caused by a rapid acceleration.

In addition, new details about the driver emerged. He was a 39-year-old Arab-American from Los Angeles, Ahmed Abdel Hamideh -- a recovering drug addict who became a devout Muslim. He visited a Palestinian newspaper office Monday and, according to the editor, acted strangely and warned against publishing blasphemy.

Unconfirmed Israeli media reports say a note with the words -- Islamic Jihad -- was found in the car, and he told friends early Monday they would see him on television that night. He is also reported to have sent a letter to relatives, telling them what to put on his gravestone.

Sunday's Tragedy Described by Child

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Since Sunday's bombings in Israel, details have emerged about the 25 people who were killed and some of the 85 who were injured. As Bus 18 made its way through Jerusalem's Katamon neighborhood and into the City Center, it picked up new immigrants, young soldiers, workers and one suicide bomber. It was crowded by the time it reached the traffic light near the Central Bus Station where the bomber set off his 22 pounds of explosives.

In that moment witnesses say the bus leaped off the ground and crashed back down, and body parts flew through the air. Twenty two people died instantly, at least two others received fatal wounds, and dozens more on the bus and in nearby vehicles received various injuries.

Among the dead were seven new immigrants to Israel from the former USSR. Janna and Anatoly Kushnirov, who came to Israel from Ukraine three-years ago, have become the best known, thanks to their eight-year-old son, Vladik.
As people visited the family home to pay their respects, he explained with touching simplicity what had happened. He said "There was an explosion, my mommy and daddy sat by mistake next to the man who wanted to blow up the bus, and they were badly wounded. They took them to the hospital and operated on them, but they did not manage to save them."

Family members and social workers had helped young Vladik put the tragedy into some kind of perspective. He said "I already miss my mommy and daddy, but even though it is hard, we must go on. Every family could have something bad happen to them in life. Grandpa and grandma and my aunt will take care of me and I will look after my baby brother." Vladik's brother is just four months old.

Twenty injured in the bombing were also new immigrants. Israel's Absorption Ministry says 30 new immigrants have died in terrorist attacks in the past five years. Following the explosions, the ministry dispatched teams of Russian-speaking workers to help the new immigrant families deal with their emotions, and with the Israeli bureaucracy and press corps.

Three recent graduates from one Jerusalem high school were killed, throwing the entire school into mourning. One of the dead young men was the only brother of 10 sisters.

Another was the 20-year-old son of one of Israel's leading journalists. The reporter was at the scene of the explosion when his editors learned his son had been killed. They quickly called him back to the office and then broke the news. Two years ago, covering another such attack, the journalist, Nachum Barnea, had coined the phrase "Victims of Peace."

Among the people seriously injured in the bombing were several Palestinians who were in a car stopped next to the bus. One of them, 23-year-old Wael Qawasmi, was in a coma. At the hospital after the bombing, one of Qawasmi's brothers said such attacks are good for the Palestinian cause and if his brother dies, he will die as a martyr. Another injured Palestinian, Assem Nabulsi, said the militants are wrong to bomb buses, which are used by ordinary workers whose lives are already hard enough.

Two of the dead were Americans, 25-year-old rabbinical student Matthew Eisenfeld and his 22-year-old girlfriend Sara Duker, who was studying science at Hebrew University. Their bodies were flown back to the US where they were to be buried in adjacent graves.

Most of the funerals for the bombing victims were Sunday and Monday. Each funeral was emotionally wrenching in its own way, but again young Vladik Kushnirov stood out. He drew a picture of himself and showed it to a television reporter at the funeral. He said "I am standing next to the grave of my parents and I am crying, and here I wrote that I am telling my father -- Father, Mother, do not leave me."

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