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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       March 4, 1996 V4, #40
All the News the Big Guys Missed

19 More People Die in Suicide Bombing

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Another suicide bombing claimed by the militant Palestinian group Hamas killed 19 people Sunday in Jerusalem, one week -- almost to the minute -- after a similar bombing just a few blocks away. Israel's Cabinet held an emergency meeting and announced a major crackdown on Hamas.

It was like a morbid replay of the week before. An explosion rocked much of the city, followed by the sound of dozens of ambulances -- this time centered just 325 feet from Jerusalem's city government building.

The US Consul General in Jerusalem, Edward Abington, ran to the scene from his home behind the consulate, less than 1/2-kilometer away. "It was a scene out of hell. It was really terrible. There were bodies lying there, body parts, and it was just a horrible sight. I can not understand how people can do this, and just mutilate and tear people up with bombs. It was absolutely horrible."

One witness said the bus appeared to fly through the air when the 35 pound bomb exploded. The bus continued to travel 150-feet after the explosion, coming to rest at a major intersection. The bus was left a charred skeleton and dozens of storefronts along the street were blown in. The explosion came, like the bombings last week, at the start of the morning rush hour on the first day of the israeli work week, and on the same bus line.

A few hours later, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres announced a series of steps against Hamas, including what he called emergency measures to, in his words, destroy Hamas completely and immediately. He said centers of Hamas activity will be closed and Israel will move against Hamas activists and their families.

Many Hamas activities are legal, including a network of schools and clinics, making it difficult for Israel to legally close them. But, Peres says this time Israel is ready to take all necessary steps.

He summarized his lengthy Hebrew presentation in one sentence of English.

"The Hamas has declared war on Israel, and Israel will act accordingly."
Peres also called for the Palestinian authority to outlaw and disarm militant organizations, and to arrest their leaders.

Also Sunday, Peres' cabinet approved a plan to substantially increase controls along the lines between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Officials say this will include a network of fences and electronic devices, and the closure of back roads Palestinians use to avoid checkpoints.

Palestinians call the closures collective punishment, and say it is particularly unfair of Israel to impose such a punishment because the Palestinian economy is dependent on Israel for jobs and as an export market. In the past, Israeli leaders have been concerned prolonged, or very strict, closures would result in more support for the militants. But last week, Foreign Minister Ehud Barak said Israel is not so concerned about that any more.

Peres is facing elections in three months, and at the scene of the bombing Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert of the opposition Likud Party said such attacks will have a political fallout.

"One must understand that there is so much that people can tolerate. If this is peace, then it is legitimate that people will ask whether they want this kind of peace."

Since last Sunday, Arafat's Autonomy Authority has arrested more than 200 alleged militants, and on Sunday Palestinian police patrolled Gaza in armored personnel carriers, an unprecedented show of force. They were also to begin enforcing a ban on unlicensed weapons.

A statement faxed to news organizations said the latest bombing was an operation of the same Hamas unit which claimed last Sunday's two bombings, the students of Yehia Ayyash -- the chief Hamas bomb maker who was killed two-months ago in an explosion widely blamed on Israel. The statement says this is the last of the revenge attacks for that killing, and the group will give the senior Hamas leadership and the Israeli government three-months to negotiate a ceasefire. Israel has already rejected such talks.

Sunday was a day for costume parties in the Israeli schools, to mark the festival of Purim tonight, resulting in the paradoxical image Sunday of children heading for school in brightly colored outfits as ambulances sped by. Among them was Vladik Kushnirov, a nine-year-old boy who lost his parents in one of last week's bombings. He arrived at school Sunday with white face paint, wearing a cowboy outfit.

Seven of the 19 people who died in Sunday's suicide bombing in Jerusalem were foreigners, and two, in addition to the bomber, were Palestinians.

Sunday's bombing brings the total number of victims to 46 from four attacks in Israel in the past eight days. There were two suicide bombings last Sunday, and the following day an Arab-American drove his car into a crowd at a bus stop, killing one woman. All four attackers also died.

Condemnations came from around the world for all the attacks, as well as condolences for the victims' families.

Editor's Note: Israel Faxx's Purim parody will appear in a future issue.

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