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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       March 5, 1996 V4, #41
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Bodies, Blood and Burning in Tel Aviv

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

There was another suicide bombing in Israel Monday afternoon, this time in downtown Tel Aviv, killing 13 people and injuring 126. It was claimed by the militant Palestinian group Hamas. Israel's government responded by giving its armed forces what Cabinet ministers called a "free hand" to move against against the militants, wherever they are located.

The attacker apparently wanted to go into the Dizengoff Center, one of Tel Aviv's largest, multi-story shopping malls. But seeing guards at the entrances he decided to set off his bomb outside. It was the evening rush hour and the area was crowded with commuters and shoppers. There was a particularly large number of children in the area -- many of them in costume -- for the Jewish holiday of Purim, which started last night.

Trained medic and Tel Aviv resident Adam Bier rushed to the scene. "I ran down to the scene. On the way I saw lots of children fleeing, being led away by their parents or by some adult. The first thing that struck me when I got there besides all the chaos and all the people screaming and streaming all over the place, was the smell. The first thing that kind of smacks you in the face, the stench of burning, like meat. And glass everywhere, blood, body parts, bodies lying on the floor covered with sheets. There were children's strollers strewn on the ground, stuffed animals lying on the ground, like rubble, in blood and burned and partially charcoaled."

An anonymous caller to the Arabic Service of Israel Radio claimed the blast for the militant Palestinian group Hamas, and identified the suicide bomber as a 24-year-old man from the West Bank town of Ramallah. The caller said the bombing was a response to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres' statement Sunday that he was declaring war on Hamas. But later, another caller said it was a joint operation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and warned of more attacks to come.

Peres convened an emergency Cabinet meeting Monday evening and announced formation of a new interagency command to coordinate his anti-terrorism effort. "We have decided to build a special headquarters to confront this very particular sort of terror, which is the suicidal terror, I can't promise that overnight everything will be solved, but I have full confidence in our capacity to handle the situation."

The new anti-terrorism command will be headed by the chief of Israel's internal security service, and will include senior army and police officers. Peres said it will have the authority to act against terrorist cells wherever they are located. That raises the possibility that Israel could launch operations in areas under Palestinian control for the first time since the autonomy process began two years ago. Late Monday, the Israeli police were ordered to close all institutions related to Hamas in Jerusalem, which would include a variety of social service organizations.

Meanwhile, angry demonstrators gathered outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, where the Cabinet met, to demand action. Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu called for unity, and said the terrorists should understand they will not defeat Israel. And in Gaza, the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, said Monday's bombing strengthens his determination to work with Israel to fight terrorism.

Monday's bombing was the fifth attack in Israel in the last nine days, leaving more than 50 people dead, all claimed by Hamas. It came in spite of heightened security measures already put in place after the previous attacks.

Clinton Denounces Tel Aviv Bombing

By David Borgida (VOA-Taylor, Mich.)

President Clinton has denounced terrorism sponsored by the militant Islamic group Hamas, as his Middle East advisers review US policy options following the wave of violent attacks in Israel. The president returned to Washington last night after a day-long political trip to Michigan, where he denounced what he called the hysterical, determined, fanatic attempt to derail the peace process.

In the first of two political speeches, he called the terrorists, "enemies of peace."

"They live for division and conflict, and I ask all of you my fellow Americans to send a message to Israel -- if you fight for peace, we will stand with you!"

His Middle East advisers met at the White House to discuss the peace process and the latest wave of terrorism. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and National Security Adviser Anthony Lake were among the participants. The president was expected to be briefed on those talks.

Ironically, the Michigan trip had first been planned for last November, but it was postponed because of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

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