BOMBING: Bomb likely left in bag on table

BOMBING on Page 4A Continued from 1A JUMPWORD: HEADLINEHERE Militants strike Jerusalem's Hebrew University Bomb kills 7 at Israeli college


Published: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 12:00 a.m.
Bomb blast kills 7 at universityThree Americans among dead in cafeteria
By JAMES BENNET and JOHN KIFNER The New York Times JERUSALEM - A powerful bomb hidden in a bag and left on a table by Palestinian militants tore apart a bustling cafeteria during lunch at Hebrew University here Wednesday, killing at least seven people, including three Americans and wounding more than 80.
Through a bedlam of screams and crashing glass, students fled in horror from the cafeteria, in the Frank Sinatra Student Center, some trailing blood onto the concrete courtyard of Nancy Reagan Plaza.
Because of the campus's diverse student body - it is one of the few enclaves here where Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs still mix - students said they had felt safe, even as new violence threatened the city this week. Arab students were among the wounded, hospital officials said, as were foreign students.
In Washington, the State Department reported the deaths of the three Americans but did not release their names.
President Bush condemned the attack and said it was perpetrated by "killers who hate the thought of peace and therefore are willing to take their hatred to all kinds of places, including a university."
It was the second bombing in two days in Jerusalem but the first attack on the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University since 1948.
The Islamist group Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying that it acted in retaliation for Israel's killing last week of a top Hamas leader. Fourteen others, including nine children, died in that attack, in which Israel dropped a one-ton bomb on a house in Gaza City.
Spencer Dew, 26, a divinity student from the University of Chicago studying here for the summer, was eating on the patio when he heard the blast, then smelled gunpowder. Cut by flying glass, he joined the fleeing crowd, then returned for a notebook, which also had been pierced by glass.
"I know there are justifications - bad justifications," he said of the political violence, his shirt spotted crimson and his khaki pants torn as he left a hospital here. "It's killing college students. That's no political solution for anything. It's killing college kids."
As emergency workers cleared the site, Abeer Salman, 19, a student from the Arab village of Beit Safafa, sat on the stone steps of the plaza, stunned.
"I was across the plaza," she said. "My friend wanted to get something to drink. After two minutes we heard a blast, and we can't find her."
The attack was unusual in that it appeared not to be the work of a suicide bomber. Police officials said an initial investigation suggested that the bomb was hidden in a bag and left on a table in the center of the restaurant, one of the most popular spots on campus.
Israeli officials said the attack fit a Palestinian strategy of killing civilians.
"This is a continuous effort by the Palestinians to kill as many Israelis as possible in order to sabotage the peace process," said Gideon Meir, a senior Foreign Ministry official. "It has nothing to do with what happened in Gaza City a week ago."
The Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat, issued a statement saying that it "absolutely condemns the attack against Hebrew University" but adding that it blamed Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, for provoking violence.
After back-to-back bombings killed 26 people here more than a month ago, Israel began a ground offensive in the West Bank that until Tuesday appeared to have successfully suppressed Palestinian violence, in part by imposing curfews on seven of eight Palestinian cities.
But Palestinian militants vowed retaliation after the bombing last week, and the head of Israel's security agency warned Tuesday that at least 60 attacks were being planned.
After five people were injured in the suicide bombing here Tuesday, Sharon met senior security advisers before Wednesday's attack to discuss ways of coping with suicide bombers, and the group endorsed the idea of deporting members of the killers' families. On Wednesday night, Israeli military officials convened to consider possible retaliation.
Ron Krumer, a spokesman for the Hadassah Medical Center on Mount Scopus, where some of the wounded were taken, said the victims suffered "penetrating injuries, with lots of metal elements, such as bolts and screws and nails, all over their bodies."
The bomb sprayed blood across the acoustic ceiling tiles, tore apart wooden chairs and scattered the antique radios decorating the cafeteria. A large jar of pickled radishes sat unbroken on one counter, as an officer a few feet away used large tweezers to pick evidence out of a pool of blood.
Students jotted down lists of friends and frantically dialed their cell phones, checking off the names of those who responded. Others called home to say they were all right.
"I got delayed; I'm the luckiest man in the world," Allistaire Goldrein, 19, of Liverpool, England, told his worried father, calling from England. Goldrein said he ate in the cafeteria every day and was delayed Wednesday by another student.
"I was coming around the corner and suddenly there was this huge explosion," he said. "I can't describe it - huge. The very foundation of the stone structure was shaken."
Goldrein said he raced inside. "It was carnage in there," he said. "Carnage, anarchy. It was disgusting. I saw dead people. I saw people with no heads. There was a guy, I gave him mouth to mouth, but he was dead."
The campus is fenced, and guards check the bags of those who enter. But some students complained that the security was porous, and an investigation by a campus newspaper in January warned that a cafeteria would make an appealing, accessible target.
"The security tries to do their best," said Kobi Cohen, the student union president. "But there are a lot of holes in the fence. A lot of guards don't check the bags well."
Cohen, who helped rescue the wounded, said, "We always believed that because there are Arab students here and Arab workers, nobody will try to hurt us here."
Just outside the campus Wednesday afternoon, the police detained scores of Arab men, including some who appeared to be students, keeping them standing in the sun for several hours as they searched for suspects.
Representatives of an anti-Palestine faction arrived at the blast site and unfurled a banner declaring, "It's them or us" and "Expel the Arab enemy." Dror Lederman, 26, a student of economics and accounting, angrily accosted one man. "Get out of here," he said. "You come every time. You come to dance on the blood."
Students watched in shock as emergency workers carried their peers away on orange stretchers, through an area where graduation ceremonies are held. "I was standing in the Forum and watching them bring people on stretchers, and I saw blood and shoes and IVs on the ground," said Sophia Aron, 19, of Los Angeles, a student from the University of California at Davis who is studying here for a year. "Right in the Forum. It freaks me out. But I'm not leaving."
Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a political leader of Hamas, blamed Israel for the attack. "Such operations will continue until the elimination of the occupation," he said. Hamas leaders consider all of Israel to be occupied territory, not just the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in 1967.
Shlomo Avineri, a professor of political science at the university, said, "This is beyond the pale, to attack a university, and it shows what the war is about. It's not about the settlements. It's not about occupation. It's about the very existence of a Jewish population in this country."
He predicted that on the campus, "the anger will overshadow the agony - the sense that they're not going to shut off the Hebrew University."

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